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Columbus firm agrees to cease preparing immigration forms

The Supreme Court of Ohio approved a consent decree in which Immigration Associates LLC, a Columbus company that provided services and legal advice to foreign nationals seeking help with immigration issues, agreed to cease and desist from preparing official forms for submission to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and from performing other services for clients that constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

The court adopted the recommendation of its Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law that no civil penalty be imposed against Immigration Associates or individual respondents Gerald and Barbara Abbitt, who are not licensed as attorneys. In return, Immigration Associates and the Abbitts stipulated that they had improperly marketed and provided services and legal advice to clients that may lawfully be provided only by attorneys, and agreed that in the future they would not advertise or engage in any business in which they prepare immigration forms, applications, petitions or supporting documents for a fee.

In the decision and order, the court enjoined the respondents from engaging in all activities that constitute the unauthorized practice of law, including:  “A. The marketing, sale, or preparation of legal documents, including immigration forms, applications, petitions, and supporting forms by or on behalf of Immigration Associates, L.L.C. or the individual respondents; and B. The rendering of advice regarding immigration forms, applications, or petitions.”

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Supreme Court of Ohio Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion released by the court, but only for those cases considered noteworthy or of great public interest. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions from 1992 to the present are available online from the Reporter of Decisions.

2011-2194. Ohio State Bar Assn. v. Immigration Assoc., L.L.C., Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-3304. On Final Report by the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law, No. UPL 10-05.  The board’s recommendation is accepted, and the proposed consent decree submitted by the parties is approved. O’Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, O’Donnell, Lanzinger, Cupp, and McGee Brown, JJ., concur. Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2012/2012-Ohio-3304.pdf.

Want to know more about the basics of immigration law? Check out the OSBA CLE seminar Immigration Law on Sept. 19 in Columbus.

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