Leon Black’s law firm fights disqualification bid in Russian model’s case

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(Reuters) – A law firm defending billionaire investor Leon Black in a defamation and sexual misconduct lawsuit is fighting to retain its role in the case, after Black’s accuser says the firm should be disqualified for hiring a New York prosecutor who had previously investigated him.

Former prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court papers on Tuesday that she had nothing to do with the case.

Black, represented by law firm Perry Guha, is fighting Russian model Guzel Ganieva’s allegations in New York state court that he sexually assaulted her, then lied and falsely accused her of extortion when she spoke out. He denied the allegations.

Last month, Ganieva said Perry Guha should be fired from the case because the law firm had recently hired Illuzzi-Orbon from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where she led the trial division.

Illuzzi-Orbon received confidential information about Black, the former head of private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc, when Ganieva reported his alleged sexual misconduct to Manhattan prosecutors last year, Ganieva alleged. Allowing Perry Guha to remain Black’s attorney would be a gross ethical violation, she argued.

But in an affidavit filed in New York County Supreme Court on Tuesday, Illuzzi-Orbon said she was “completely isolated” from Perry Guha’s work on the Black case.

Perry Guha separately called Ganieva’s decision to disqualify her “shameful”, saying it was not based on any real conflict. Samidh Guha, partner at Perry Guha, said in a statement that the motion to disqualify is “a cynical litigation tactic that has no basis in law or fact.”

Illuzzi-Orbon told the court she could not publicly confirm or deny any investigation of Black by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. She added that her former office “had no concerns about the appropriateness of my work with Perry Guha or my conduct.”

Illuzzi-Orbon said she was an “independent contractor” with Perry Guha and usually worked less than 10 hours a week at the business.

Lawyer Jeanne Christensen, a partner at Wigdor representing Ganieva, said documents filed by Perry Guha this week said they did not “warn” Illuzzi-Orbon’s hiring “or put in place formal screening. in their office for months.

Last month, Black filed a separate lawsuit against Ganieva and her law firm Wigdor, alleging Ganieva breached a confidentiality agreement she had with him. This case is also pending in the New York County Supreme Court.

Christensen said Black’s latest trial was “total nonsense”.

Black is also appealing the dismissal of his federal lawsuit against Ganieva and Wigdor. He accused them of engaging in a “criminal enterprise”, including falsely linking Black to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in June, calling it “doubtfully litigated”, “legally tenuous” and “tired”.

A spokesperson for Black did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Ganieva v. Black, New York County Supreme Court, Index No. 155262/2021

For Guzel Ganieva: Jeanne Christensen, Michael Willemin and Renan Varghese de Wigdor

For Leon Black: Dayna Perry, Peter Gwynne and Alexander Parachini of Perry Guha; and Michael Carlinsky and Jennifer Barrett of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Read more:

Russian model wants Leon Black’s lawyers to launch lawsuit in New York

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David Thomas

Thomson Reuters

David Thomas reports on legal activity, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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