A Fayetteville attorney recently settled a malpractice lawsuit after it turned out that the birth mother in an adoption case wasn’t even pregnant.
Vaughn-Michael Cordes and his law firm, the Cordes Law Firm, agreed to pay his former clients $28,750, according to the consent judgment filed in Washington County Circuit Court.
Travis and Kristina Partin of Boston, Kentucky, had paid Cordes nearly $30,000 in 2017 to represent them in the adoption of a child to be born to a Marshallese woman, Jacklynn Aen of Rogers. Cordes also worked with Aen.
But it turned out that Aen was not pregnant.
“Cordes admits that he took no steps to verify that … Aen was actually pregnant, which Defendant Cordes agrees an attorney of reasonable skill and diligence would have done,” the judgment said.
Last year, Aen pleaded guilty in Washington County Circuit Court to a criminal charge for defrauding a prospective adoptive parent. She was sentenced to 20 years of probation and ordered to pay nearly $15,000 in restitution.
These days, the Partins are “doing well,” said their attorney Joshua Bryant of Rogers. “They’re certainly excited that we’re able to get a judgment, and they’re able to start recouping some of the money that they’ve spent.”
Cordes filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization in November after the Partins filed their suit. Cordes listed potentially $1.9 million in debts. He reported $580,000 in assets.
The bankruptcy is pending and the debt owed to the Partins would not have been discharged anyway.
“So we were able to get that judgment,” Bryant said. “And I’m looking forward to … continuing to see that adoptions are done ethically in northwest Arkansas and in Arkansas in general.”
Cordes did not return calls for comment.