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Attorney reprimanded for handling of adoption case

September 13, 2017

The Indiana Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded a Hamilton County adoption attorney who failed to inform his clients that a birth mother they planned to adopt a baby from had chosen someone else to adopt her child.

In the disciplinary case against Steven Kirsh, In the Matter of Steven M. Kirsh, Respondent, 29S00-1703-DI-154, Steven Kirsh was hired by clients to represent them in an intended adoption with a birth mother, who had tentatively agreed to allow the clients to adopt her baby after its birth. However, when the birth mother expressed concerns to Kirsh about the clients adopting the child and asked for profiles of other prospective parents, Kirsh provided the additional profiles, prompting the birth mother to select another couple to adopt the child.

Kirsh did not discuss any of these facts with his clients until after the birth mother selected a different set of adoptive parents. Further, while the attorney did have other prospective adoptive parents sign conflict-of-interest waivers, he failed to have the clients sign one.

Then, when Kirsh and his clients began discussing a partial reimbursement of fees the clients advanced, he presented them with a release form that purported to bar the clients from filing a “claim” with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. The clients refused and instead retained separate counsel while they considered a legal malpractice suit, though the parties were eventually able to reach a settlement.

Meanwhile, the disciplinary action against Kirsh was opened in March 2017, and the parties agreed he had violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.7(a), 1.8(b) and 8.4(d). Those rules relate to prohibitions against representing a client when the representation may be materially limited by responsibilities to another person; using client information to the disadvantage of the client without their consent; and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

In an order dated Sept. 8, the Indiana Supreme Court determined the appropriate discipline was a public reprimand against Kirsh. The costs of the proceeding are also assessed against him.

The order was signed by Justice Steve David as acting chief justice. All justices concurred except Chief Justice Loretta Rush, who did not participate.

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