CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday imposed a two-year license suspension on a Cleveland-based lawyer who mishandled the immigration case of a Bulgarian ballroom dancer and then lied to her about it, according to the court’s opinion.
But a majority of the justices agreed to make attorney Harlan Karp serve only six months of the suspension. Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Sharon Kennedy wrote dissenting opinions saying they would have stayed the entire two years.
The Bulgarian woman came to the U.S. in 2015 after a New Jersey dance studio successfully petitioned the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services for a special work visa available for artists who demonstrate extraordinary ability, the court’s opinion states. The visa allowed the woman to work in the U.S. through February 2018.
In October 2015, the woman took a job at a California studio and enlisted Karp to file an application to transfer the visa from the New Jersey studio to the new employer. Karp never sent in the paperwork, but told her that he did when she asked him, the opinion states. He assured her that he would get the confirmation in the mail, but it never came, the opinion states. The woman and her new employer in California asked Karp to send a confirmation number for her application in May 2016, seven months after Karp first said he sent it, the court reports, but Karp mailed the application in the next day.
Karp signed the name of the owner of the California studio on the application without her consent, the court states.
After Karp filed the application, he emailed the woman her entire case file because he thought that his representation of her was over, the court states. Immigration services then sent requests for follow-up information to Karp and he did not respond. As a result, the agency considered her application abandoned and denied the transfer. The woman had already moved to California at the time.
The owner of the New Jersey studio had asked the government to revoke the woman’s original visa petition within weeks of her leaving for the California job in October 2015, the opinion states. The government granted that request because Karp did not know about the requested revocation and therefore did not respond to it, the court reports.
That meant that the woman had been living in the country illegally for several months, giving the U.S. the legal ability to cite her “unlawful presence” as a reason to bar her from living in the U.S. for up to 10 years, according to the opinion.
The woman hired a new lawyer who filed the paperwork to get her a visa to work at the California studio, but she had to leave the U.S. and re-enter the country to activate it, the court states.
The woman filed a grievance against Karp, which triggered an investigation by a panel of the Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct.
Karp, who has practiced for decades, has no other disciplinary action on his record.
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