Ogletree Sued in Rare Immigration Law Legal Malpractice Case

Immigration law generates few malpractice claims, but Am Law 200 member Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart is facing a potentially serious one from a former Emmy-award winning producer, who alleges that she lost her visa due to forgery by an Ogletree attorney.

 

Background

According to Daily Report OnlineKaren Bass is a British citizen who was hired by National Geographic in 2011 to produce its “Wild Americas” TV series, and later promoted to vice president for natural history projects.

Her duties required frequent travel to the US, which in turn required her to obtain a visa. She applied for a 0-1B visa, which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services describes as being for “individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.”

Bass retained Attorney Brandi Knox, then with Littler Mendelson, to help her get the specialty visa, which had to be re-applied for annually. Bass obtained the visa in 2011, and retained Knox to renew it when the attorney moved to Ogletree in 2012.

Knox obtained the visa for Bass in 2012, 2013, and 2014, submitting a petition packet each year that purportedly included the signature of Megan Edwards, National Geographic’s General Counsel.

However after the petition was approved in 2014, the State Department’s Kentucky Consular Center, which oversees petition-based visas, contacted Edwards to clarify employer information on Bass’ petition.

Edwards told the State Department that the signatures on Bass’ application and renewal forms were not hers, and she had not authorized anyone to sign for her.

Aftermath

National Geographic fired Bass shortly thereafter, in October, 2014, and her 0-1B visa was taken away.

Bass’s attorney said that Bass has been unable to obtain the specialty visa again, and has been forced to hire lawyers in the U.S. and London to “try to untangle all this.” She’s “pursuing what work opportunities she can, but she continues to have travel difficulties; it’s still a nightmare.”

Worse, her firing “greatly damaged her in the filmmaking community,” she said. “Our immediate concern is restoring Ms. Bass’ reputation.”

Attorney’s Response

According to the lawsuit, When Bass contacted Knox after she was fired, the lawyer told her that “she a power of attorney to sign the visa application and renewal petitions,” although no such authority existed. (Note: typo presumably in complaint.) 

Further, Knox’s emailed the State Department sin November, 2014 that there had been a “misunderstanding regarding the signatory.”

Malpractice Suit

Bass filed a four-count complaint – case# 16EV005327 – against Knox and Olgeltree in Fulton County (GA) State Court on 11/7/16, alleging legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The complaint alleges that Knox admitted to having forged Edwards’ signature, and that on each document purportedly signed by Edwards, Knox had used a different pen and date from those she used for her own signature and “disguised her handwriting to mimic that of Ms. Edwards.”

Law Firm Response

Ogletree, Deakins and Knox, who according to her linkedin profile, left the firm for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in September, 2016, are being represented by Carlock, Copeland & Stair.

“We have reviewed the complaint and the firm will answer and defend the claims,” handling attorney Joe Kingma told the Daily Report Online. “While we have just begun our defense, we expect to prevail.”

UPDATE – a check of the court filings on 12/1/17 showed that the defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on 11/10/17. The filings weren’t accessible due to a system problem.

FURTHER READING

Karen Bass interview

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About Curtis Cooper