The D.C. Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a Maryland lawyer who was found guilty two years ago of placing babies for adoption without a license.
In a 2-to-1 decision released Tuesday, the court said Leonard R. Goldstein's conduct in representing the adoptive parents did not violate the city's "Baby Broker Act," which is intended to protect the rights and interests of the natural mother and her child.
The adoptions involved infants born in a District hospital and adopted by parents in Maryland and Virginia. The state courts had approved the adoptions and Goldstein's actions were limited to carrying out the mothers' decisions, the court said in an opinion written by associate Judge Frank Q. Nebeker. Judge Stanley S. Harris joined Nebeker in the majority.
The appeals court, which ordered that Goldstein be acquitted of the charges, said in a footnote that it appeared that Goldstein, the natural mothers and the adoptive parents "had the best interests of the infants in mind."
In a dissenting opinion, associate Judge John W. Kern III said that while the adoptions were legal and the natural mothers were willing to give up their babies, the act was violated because Goldstein was not licensed to arrange for adoptions in the District.
In the same opinion, Kern agreed with the majority that upheld the conviction of Edward Galison, a New York attorney who was charged with the same offense. The majority said that in the Galison case the natural mother was pressured into relinquishing her child to a New York couple and was brought to the District from Florida, solely to facilitate the adoption. That is what the Baby Broker Act is designed to prevent, the court said.