Craig A. Leslie

Partner, Governing Committee Buffalo

When you have to go to war, Craig’s the litigator that you want in the foxhole with you.

In addition to being one of Phillips Lytle’s most experienced trial attorneys (with over 20 years of experience trying high-stakes cases in state and federal court), Craig also serves as the firm’s Litigation Practice Group Leader and as the co-leader of the firm’s Appellate Practice Team.

Not only is Craig a skilled trial and appellate advocate, he is an authority in tort and product liability defense, commercial litigation and creditors’ rights, personal injury litigation, and real property valuation, tax assessment and eminent domain proceedings. His reputation for responsiveness, tenacity and creative problem-solving are his hallmarks, making him a valued, contributing member of the firm’s Business Litigation, Product Liability and Mass Tort Litigation, Insurance Coverage, Canadian Cross-Border and Personal Injury Defense Litigation Teams, as well as the firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee. Clients appreciate Craig’s in-depth knowledge of their businesses and industries, and that he always stands with them, shoulder-to-shoulder, as their advocate and trusted advisor.

Craig’s numerous published opinions speak to his skills as a trial lawyer and appellate advocate, but his volunteer service as a youth soccer coach, community soccer organization board member, and board member and president of a local travel soccer program speak to both his commitment to the youth of our community and his deep roots in his adopted hometown.


Honors & Awards

  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America®
  • Selected for the Upstate New York Super Lawyers® list, 2014-2019, 2023

Education & Admissions

  • State University of New York at Buffalo Law School, J.D., summa cum laude, 1997
  • State University of New York at Plattsburgh, B.A., 1994
Admitted to Practice
  • New York
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western Districts of New York
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern and Western Districts of New York
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
Judicial Clerkships
  • New York State Court of Appeals, Law Clerk to the Judges of the Court, 1997-1999


Representative Matters
  • HBC Victor LLC v. Town of Victor, 212 A.D.3d 121 (4th Dep’t 2022) – Obtained Appellate Division order annulling town’s determination and findings to condemn property, on the grounds that the Town had not identified or described a legitimate public project and that the proposed taking did not rationally relate to any conceivable public purpose.
  • Levin v. City of Rochester, 203 A.D.3d 1540 (3d Dep’t 2022) – Obtained order compelling city to produce termination notice sent to city employee, which had been improperly withheld in discovery, and successfully defended appeal from that order, resulting in affirmance.
  • Ford Motor Credit Company v. Jim True Ford Mercury, Inc., 2022 WL 18540482 (S.D. Ind. 2022) – Obtained summary judgment on claims for breach of contract, breach of guaranty, and conversion against motor vehicle dealership and individual guarantor, as well as summary judgment dismissing defendants’ counterclaim for defamation.
  • National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. Schueckler, 35 N.Y.3d 297 (2020), National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. Gurov, 185 A.D.3d 1481 (4th Dep’t 2020), and National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. Oprea, 185 A.D.3d 1481 (4th Dep’t 2020) – Successfully represented client in connection with appeals arising out of condemnation proceedings under New York’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law that were premised upon Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (which landowners had challenged as insufficient to permit the taking of their properties).
  • Matter of Champlain Centre North LLC v. Town of Plattsburgh, 165 A.D.3d 1440 (3d Dep’t 2018) – Obtained judgment, after trial, reducing tax assessments on commercial property located in the Town of Plattsburgh to the amounts sought by the property owner. Also successfully defended that verdict on appeal and obtained affirmance of that judgment.
  • Ford Motor Credit Company LLC v. Orton-Bruce, 2017 WL 1093906 (S.D.N.Y. 2017) – Obtained summary judgment on breach of contract claims against guarantors of indebtedness owed by motor vehicle dealership.
  • Sagez v. Columbus McKinnon Corp., 2016 WL 11634571 (S.D. Ill. 2016) – Defeated motions to dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction, brought by foreign manufacturers sued in Illinois in connection with wrongful death action involving products that they manufactured.
  • Matter of Board of Managers of French Oaks Condominium v. Town of Amherst, 23 N.Y.3d 168 (2014) – Successfully represented Town on appeal involving an issue of first impression before the New York Court of Appeals, which resulted in that court’s seminal decision interpreting 22 N.Y.C.R.R. 202.59(g)(2) and requiring that real property appraisals used in tax certiorari proceedings in New York must adequately set forth the facts, figures and calculations supporting the appraiser’s conclusions.
  • Ferland v. GMO Renewable Resources LLC, 105 A.D.3d 1158 (3d Dep’t 2013) – Obtained order granting summary judgment to landowner who leased recreational property to fish and game club and was subsequently sued by injured snowmobiler, based on immunity under New York’s recreational use statute. Also successfully briefed and argued appeal resulting in affirmance of that order.
  • United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local No. 210 v. A.W. Farrell & Son, Inc., 547 Fed. Appx. 17 (2d Cir. 2013) – Successfully briefed and argued appeal that resulted in affirmance of trial court judgment dismissing ERISA claims alleged by Union against employer and individual owners.
  • Cook v. Garrant, 27 A.D.3d 984, 811 N.Y.S.2d 801 (3rd Dep’t 2006)
  • Saturn Club v. City of Buffalo, 12 A.D.3d 1084 (4th Dep’t 2004) – Obtained judgment, after trial, reducing tax assessments on commercial property located in the city to the amounts sought by the property owner. Also successfully briefed and argued appeal that resulted in affirmance of that order, wherein the Appellate Division refused to disturb the referee’s determination that the analysis by the city’s appraiser was “so damaged by cross-examination that he placed ‘no reliance on his valuation analysis and conclusions.’”

Speaking Engagements

View All
  • Presenter, “Product Liability and Business Expansion to the U.S.,” Invest Buffalo Niagara Webinar, December 2018
  • Panelist, “#UBLawResponds on the Ground and Moving Forward: Standing with Puerto Rico Throughout Recovery Toward a Resilient Future,” University at Buffalo School of Law Clinical Legal Education Event, April 2018

Activities & Professional Associations

Present Activities

  • EMW Soccer, Board of Directors and Coach
  • EMW Field Development, Board of Directors
  • Tri-Town United Soccer Club, President
  • U.S. Soccer D License
  • UB School of Law Advocacy Institute, National Advisory Board, Member

Past Activities

  • New York State Bar Association, Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction
  • Musicians United, Board of Directors
  • MusicalFare Theatre, Board of Directors

Professional Associations

  • American Bar Association
    • Litigation Section
    • Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section (TIPS)
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  • Bar Association of Erie County
  • Defense Research Institute(DRI)
  • New York State Assessors’ Association
  • New York State Bar Association
    • 50+ Lawyers Section
    • Commercial and Federal Litigation Section
    • LGBTQ Law Section
    • Torts, Insurance and Compensation Law Section
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, WNY Chapter