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Attorneys of the Year: Peter Surdo

Peter Surdo and a team at Robins Kaplan made sure that a 4-year-old girl whose mother died mysteriously could live with her grandparents.

The mother, Adelle Jensen, disappeared in 2015 after spending the evening with her on-and-off-again boyfriend, Joshua Dow. Dow claimed she shot herself, admitted to dismembering her and is serving a 98-month sentence for a felony drug-related offense in conjunction with the dismemberment conviction.

From prison, Dow applied from prison for parental rights to their daughter, Chloe. Jensen’s parents, who were seeking to adopt her, decided to fight back.

Surdo, a principal who practices intellectual property and antitrust law, believed it would provide good trial experience for associates Sahr Brima, Emily Cowing, Elizabeth Fors (a 2017 Attorney of the Year winner on another case) and Geoff Kozen.

Together, they put in nearly 1,300 hours, including the associates questioning a dozen witnesses on the stand. Surdo questioned Dow, bringing up evidence including an admission that in Chloe’s presence he had been involved in drug deals with people who might have been armed. During the trial, Dow voluntarily terminated his parental rights.

“I think it’s the right result for the well-being of the child.  Family law, adoption law and juvenile justice — all of those laws — are designed for the best interests of the child,” Surdo said. “Chloe’s in as good a position as she can be for all the challenges she has.”

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