A New York man who sued the attorneys representing him in litigation against his ex-wife can go to trial in federal court on claims the firm placed its interests ahead of his, but not on his claim for attorney deceit.
A trial is needed to determine whether Ames Ray fully appreciated the potential conflict posed by his law firm’s interest in protecting its reputation when he chose to proceed with Balestriere Fariello as his counsel, Judge Katherine Polk Failla of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled Thursday. It’s also unclear the extent to which the firm attempted to exculpate Ray and avoid “finger-pointing” during a sanctions proceeding in which Ray and the firm were jointly sanctioned nearly $34,000 for bringing frivolous litigation, Failla said.
Failla allowed Ray to go to trial on his fiduciary breach claim against the firm and his attorney, but she dismissed his claim for violation of a New York law prohibiting attorney deceit. Ray failed to show that the defendants knowingly acted contrary to his interests or used deceit to pursue their own interests over his, she said.
Failla also declined to resolve Ray’s claim for conversion based on the firm’s alleged failure to turn over his files, along with the firm’s counterclaim over allegedly unpaid legal bills.
Failla’s ruling is “but another chapter” in the “decades-long litigation saga” between Ray and his ex-wife, Christina. In this case, Ray sued his attorneys, John G. Balestriere and Balestriere Fariello, for failing to act in his best interests. Ray says the lawyers were more concerned with preserving their reputation before the judge that ultimately imposed frivolous litigation sanctions than they were with properly litigating his case.
David B. Anziska of Brooklyn, N.Y., represents Ray. L’Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini LLP represents the defendants.
The case is Ray v. Balestriere Fariello, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:18-cv-11211, 8/26/21.