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Columbus Bar Association v. LaFayette

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 28, 2017

Columbus Bar Association
v.
LaFayette.

          Submitted August 29, 2017

         On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2015-052.

          Lori J. Brown, Bar Counsel, and A. Alysha Clous, Assistant Bar Counsel; Bloomfield & Kempf and David S. Bloomfield; and Judith M. McInturff, for relator.

          Eric Lee LaFayette, pro se.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Eric Lee LaFayette, of Gahanna, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0077662, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 2004. The Board of Professional Conduct recommends that we suspend him from the practice of law for six months, with the entire suspension stayed. For the reasons explained below, we adopt the board's recommended sanction.

         Procedural Background

         {¶ 2} In 2015, relator, Columbus Bar Association, charged LaFayette with professional misconduct for, among other things, failing to provide competent representation in two client matters and, in one of those cases, filing court documents on which he had forged his client's signature. The parties initially entered into a consent-to-discipline agreement recommending that we sanction LaFayette with a conditionally stayed one-year suspension. Although the board accepted the agreement, we rejected the recommended sanction and remanded to the board for further proceedings, including consideration of a more severe sanction. Columbus Bar Assn. v. LaFayette, 146 Ohio St.3d 1485, 2016-Ohio-5529, 57 N.E.3d 1166.

         {¶ 3} On remand, relator amended its complaint and withdrew the allegation that LaFayette had filed forged court documents. LaFayette stipulated to most of the charged misconduct in the amended complaint, and after a hearing, the board issued a report finding that he engaged in the stipulated misconduct. In its report, the board noted that relator's additional investigation on remand resulted in a conclusion that LaFayette's conduct had not amounted to forgery. For that reason, the board recommended that we sanction him with a stayed six-month suspension-a lesser sanction than it had previously endorsed when approving the parties' consent-to-discipline agreement. The parties do not object to the board's report and recommendation.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 4} LaFayette is a solo practitioner in Franklin County, and this matter commenced after his mishandling of two separate client matters.

         Count One-the Rapalo Enamorado matter

         {¶ 5} According to the parties' stipulations, Abel Rapalo Enamorado, a Honduras citizen, entered the United States without authorization or documentation in 2000. In 2003, he married Martha Rapalo Enamorado, who is a United States citizen. In 2006, the couple retained LaFayette to help them legalize Abel's presence in the United States. At that time, LaFayette had not handled any similar immigration matters.

         {¶ 6} In February 2006, LaFayette filed a petition seeking to have Abel classified as an alien relative of a United States citizen. Immigration authorities approved the petition in July 2006 and requested that Abel travel to Honduras for consulate processing. Abel, however, declined to return to Honduras. At that point, LaFayette was unsure of the next steps to take and essentially ...


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