Kasowitz Ex-Client Moves Collection Suit to California

, New York Law Journal

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The Dakota
The Dakota

Hedge fund manager Alphonse Fletcher, in response to a collection lawsuit brought against him by Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, has moved the suit into California federal court.

"[Kasowitz's] entitlement to the substantial fees it claims depends on, among other facts, whether [the firm] provided adequate legal representation," Fletcher said in court papers in the Northern District of California in Kasowitz Benson v. Fletcher, 13-cv-05052. (See Complaint)

Kasowitz has not yet responded to Fletcher's motion, and it is unclear if the lawsuit initiated in New York state court will remain in California federal court. Fletcher is representing himself in the filing.

Kasowitz lawyers were counsel to Fletcher and fund management company Fletcher Asset Management (FAM) in a high-profile discrimination suit still pending against the Dakota, the legendary co-op on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in Fletcher v. Dakota, 101289-2011, in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Fletcher, who is a former president of the co-op board, has alleged that the board discriminated against him in refusing to approve his purchase of a unit next to his own for the purpose of combining the two. Fletcher has also claimed that during the period that his apartment application was pending, the Dakota defendants defamed him by making false statements to others about his financial condition in order to taint consideration of his application.

The Dakota defendants, represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Balber Pickard Maldonado & Van Der Tuin, have argued that the board denied his application because it saw substantial risk and, if permitted, "Fletcher would be unable to meet his financial obligations."

Kasowitz withdrew from representing Fletcher last year in the Dakota suit, and in September 2013 filed a collection suit against Fletcher and Fletcher Asset Management. The firm has claimed it received partial payment of about $1 million, leaving about $2.3 million in unpaid fees.

Fletcher, in his response to the Kasowitz collection suit, lists several issues in the underlying Dakota case. He said some shareholders controlling the Dakota building have chilled the participation of witnesses and interfered with contracts relating to, among other things, access to assets and investment contracts.

Fletcher said that he, the management company and hedge fund Fletcher International Ltd. hired Kasowitz to confront the "interference" by the Dakota parties.

"Managing partner Marc Kasowitz promised he would rely upon his strong relationships with a prominent law firm and an international media company to try to persuade each of them to terminate their participation in any wrongdoing, particularly any unlawful interference with [Fletcher] International and its affiliates," Fletcher said.

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