Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Disciplinary hearing for adoption attorney set for today

By Dawn Geske | Mar 8, 2017

COLLINSVILLE – A hearing is set today in the disciplinary case against a Collinsville attorney accused of a conflict of interest in an adoption case.

Deborah Crouse-Cobb of Crouse-Cobb & Bays will go before the Hearing Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission at 10 a.m. today. The hearing will be held at the commission's Springfield office, 3161 West White Oaks Drive, Suite 301.

Crouse-Cobb is facing a disciplinary hearing based on her alleged conduct during an adoption case involving adoptive parents Janet and Gregory Warren and their niece’s child.

The complaints against Crouse-Cobb involve family connections with the adoption agency used to secure the child for the Warrens. The agency Crouse-Cobb suggested to the Warrens to help facilitate the adoption through a home study of the adoptive parents was owned by her mother, Joyce Crouse. Crouse was the executive director of Family Choices and at different times employed Crouse-Cobb’s sister, Susan Wolk, as well as her brother, Kevin Crouse.

Crouse-Cobb specialized in adoption law and represented Family Choices on several instances and provided the adoption agency with ongoing legal counsel and drafted legal documents for it.

The complaint filed against Crouse-Cobb by Jerome Larkin, administrator of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, also alleges that Crouse-Cobb referred her clients to Family Choices for adoption services, which in turn referred clients to Crouse-Cobb for legal advice.

In addition, Crouse-Cobb’s husband, Phillip Cobb, owned the building where Family Choices operated and provided loans of $5,000 and $15,000 to the agency, which was not repaid and eventually forgiven prior to 2010. According to the complaint, Family Choices did not pay rent to Crouse-Cobb’s husband.

During the interaction with the Warrens, Crouse-Cobb allegedly failed to disclose that her family members worked for and operated Family Choices and that she would be unable to advocate for them if Family Choices didn’t approve them as adoptive parents.

The misconduct complaint details her failure to provide adequate representation to the Warrens, as well as her inability to represent the Warrens and Family Choices concurrently. She is also being accused of failing to reasonably explain the possibility of a legal argument to the Warrens that they did not need the cooperation of Family Choices to grant their adoption and failing to withdraw representation as a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Warrens eventually filed a lawsuit against Crouse-Cobb and Family Choices after their adoption was not approved through the agency. The suit reached a settlement agreement with Crouse-Cobb, which Judge William Mudge granted the terms to.

The Warrens relinquished the child, Jude Warren, after a Nov. 22, 2013, hearing. Both Warrens had previous substance history while Gregory Warren also had a sexual abuse incident reported to the Department of Children & Family Services.

Based on the Warrens' past, Crouse-Cobb told the Warrens they would not be granted adoptive rights without a home inspection. Crouse-Cobb failed to notify the Warrens that no home inspection was necessary for biological relative adoption.

After losing the adoption case with Family Choices and Crouse-Cobb, the Warrens sought new counsel with attorney John Hopkins.

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