Buffalo Personal Injury Attorney Steve Barnes Remembered as Passionate Lawyer, Proud Marine

Steve Barnes from Cellino & Barnes. (Courtesy photo)

The sudden death of personal injury attorney and Buffalo legal giant Steve Barnes Friday sparked a shockwave in the New York legal community and outside the New York legal community, with Barnes’ name best known through his company’s Cellino & Barnes company’s ubiquitous commercials and billboards .

61-year-old Barnes was flying to a family birthday party when his small plane crashed in Genesee County, New York, killing Barnes and his niecece, the Buffalo News reported.

Barnes’ longstanding business partnership with Ross Cellino has been hampered by legal disputes in recent years. The couple agreed this summer that they would formally split and split the company’s many offices.

Barnes is slated to move into the new offices of his own law firm, The Barnes Firm, this week, said Robert Schreck, executive attorney for Cellino & Barnes and the new executive attorney for The Barnes Firm.

Schreck and his colleagues, including Barnes ‘brother Richard Barnes, are determined to open the new company as planned on Monday, Schreck said, describing it as a way to honor Barnes’ legacy.

“The old adage, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’ couldn’t be more true than Steve Barnes. He loved what he did, ”said Schreck. “He loved working with younger lawyers in our firm, he loved litigation, he loved negotiation, he loved every aspect of it.”

In addition to his passion for the law, Schreck referred to Barnes as a visionary businessman, citing his enthusiasm for starting the new company as well as the decision to invest in Cellino & Barnes advertising decades ago, which gave the firm notoriety and continued prosperity .

Barnes is from Buffalo and received both his diploma and law degrees from the University of Buffalo. He served with the U.S. Marines as an attorney for personnel judges in the 1980s and was later posted to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Gulf War.

“Steve was like the tough guy, the tough trial attorney, but behind closed doors he was an incredibly wonderful person,” said Schreck. “He had a great sense of humor.”

Barnes’ colleagues at The Barnes Firm also mourned the loss in a statement Friday.

“Steve has been a friend, colleague, partner, and mentor to so many people in our company, in New York, California and beyond,” the statement said. “He was a giant in the legal industry, a proud marine and a loving father.”

He is survived by his three children and longtime partner Ellen Sturm, who is also a lawyer at Cellino & Barnes.

Cellino said he was “deeply saddened” by Barnes’ death.

“Steve and I worked together in our company for many years,” Cellino said in a statement. “He’s always been a fearless advocate for his clients. His death is a significant loss to the legal community. “

The other passenger on Barnes’ plane was his niece Elizabeth Barnes, whose father Richard Barnes is also a partner in the company. Elizabeth Barnes moved to civil service after graduating from George Washington University Law School in 2013, Schreck said, and she worked as an assistant regional advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the circumstances of the crash, which occurred towards the end of a flight from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Buffalo, according to flight records. Officials said the plane crashed in an area that resulted in it being submerged in mud and water, making recovery efforts difficult.


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