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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer for Tennis Player Hammered on Ethics

(CN) - A lawyer who falsely claimed an affiliation with the U.S. Tennis Association to get her cousin into the United States faces a 91-day suspension, the Florida Supreme Court ruled.

Donnette Sonya Russell-Love agreed in 2009 to help her "distant cousin" from the Bahamas procure a visa so she could play in professional tennis tournaments in the United States.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services deemed the petition insufficient, however, for failing to name the organization that sponsors the tournament.

Russell-Love then asked the USTA officials for confirmation of her client's participation.

USTA employee Idelle Pierre-Louis sent her a letter that he said was "meant just to inform the consular office that the player has requested to play the event and should not be considered an endorsement."

A court-appointed referee who considered the misconduct complaint against Russell-Love found that the second visa application the lawyer submitted for her cousin listed the USTA as the organizational filer.

She listed the address of her law office as the contact for the USTA and also wrote Pierre-Louis' name on the signature line of the application, the referee found.

Russell-Love's cousin got a visa but then contacted customs officials about what she felt was the short period of time she could stay in the United States. The officer noticed that Pierre-Louis' signatures looked different on the application and the USTA letter that it had included.

The player was charged with violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act and permanently banned from the United States.

The referee found Russell-Love guilty of professional misconduct and recommended a suspension of 10 days.

Finding Russell-Love's misconduct amounted to a "serious ethical violation," however, the Florida Supreme Court opted Thursday to impose a 91-day suspension.

"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 states.

"This court has consistently stated that dishonesty and a lack of candor cannot be tolerated in a profession that relies on the truthfulness of its members," the justices added.

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