Donnette Russell-Love Loses Bar License For 91 Days
A Davie attorney whose immigration work got a Bahamian tennis player banned from the United States lost her Florida Bar license today for 91 days.
The Florida Supreme Court disregarded the case referee's recommended 10-day suspension, finding Donnette Russell-Love's conduct constituted a serious ethical violation.
"Russell-Love acknowledged the immigration forms implied that U.S. Tennis Association was petitioning for a P-1 visa on behalf of the client and that she represented USTA, both of which were false statements. Significantly, Russell-Love filled out or signed the portions of the revised forms declaring under penalty of perjury that the information therein was true and correct," the unsigned opinion said.
Russell-Love, who is of Bahamian descent, was retained in 2009 by tennis player Larikah Russell, a distant cousin.
Russell-Love filed a petition for non-immigrant worker status to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Immigration Services notified the attorney that the petition was insufficient without the name of the sponsoring organization.
Russell-Love asked the USTA for a letter confirming Russell was to participate in several tournaments. A USTA employee, Idelle Pierre-Louis, wrote back but noted, "This letter is meant just to inform the consular office that the player has requested to play in the event and should not be considered as an endorsement."
Russell-Love submitted an amended visa petition listing the USTA as the organization filing the form, and she hand wrote Pierre-Louis's name on the petitioner signature line.
The deception unraveled after Immigration Services approved the visa, the opinion said.
The tennis player, concerned about the short period of time allowed for travel, contacted a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer for clarification and sent a copy of the immigration forms.
The officer noticed the Pierre-Louis signatures on the form did not match the signature on the USTA letter and contacted the association, which denied any direct involvement in the immigration petition.