Steve Kelly

attorney steven kelly sanford heisler sharp
Steve Kelly
Baltimore and Washington, DC Partner

(410) 834-7416

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Steve Kelly is a Partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp and Co-Chair of the Firm’s Criminal/Sexual Violence Practice Group. He represents plaintiffs, especially those from traditionally marginalized groups, who seek justice as victims of violence.

When you first seek legal help, it is natural to feel overwhelmed. In my experience, it is best to have a guide who is knowledgeable, honest, and hard-working. My legal team at Sanford Heisler Sharp – Russell Kornblith, Steve Kelly, and Carolin Guentert – navigated me through complex and difficult questions with steady assurance. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I had felt powerless before coming out against my abuser and the institution that employed him. My attorneys made me feel like I had the power to hold them to account for their actions. Russell and Carolin were consistently professional, communicative, and receptive to my needs during the legal process. As a team, we overcame legal hurdles and took steps towards a favorable resolution. With Sanford Heisler Sharp, I feel that I obtained the best possible outcome for my case. I give Sanford Heisler Sharp the highest recommendation to represent your legal needs and advocate for your rights. A Former Client

David Sanford, Steven Kelly, Deborah Marcuse and the Sanford Heisler Sharp team are worthy advocates for anyone needing help in navigating the path to justice. Alexander Prout, Managing Director, Head of Asia Pacific at Deutsche Asset Management

Steve has a unique ability to fight zealously for his clients’ vision of justice. Steve draws from his personal life experiences, a distinguished legal education, and years of legal practice to offer his clients a rare combination of compassion and tenacity. I always have confidence that when I send someone Steve's way that they will find a legal advocate like none other. Bridgette Harwood, Co-Director of Network for Victim Recovery of D.C.

Steve’s passionate pursuit of justice will always inspire me most. Chessy Prout, 15-year-old rape survivor in I Have the Right To

Kelly is among the top victim lawyers in the country. Whether he is working with an adult or child-victim, litigating in criminal or civil court, he tirelessly, compassionately and artfully fights for their voice to be heard and their rights protected. Steve is a kind, caring lawyer who fights for survivors. One cannot ask for more than that. Meg Garvin, Executive Director, National Crime Victim Law Institute

We were struggling to navigate the criminal process, as well as dealing with our daughter’s 160-year-old institution and its history of turning its back on sexual assaults of children with whose care it was entrusted. A victim’s advocate introduced us to Steve and we were immediately struck with the difference in his approach to our daughter’s case and crimes perpetrated against her. Steve truly understands the victim’s perspective, and how to advocate for victim’s rights in both the criminal and civil process. Steve’s work on our daughter’s behalf has been integral to our family’s healing and has helped us achieve some measure of justice. Mother of a sexual assault survivor

After a sexual assault, the victim and her family have no road map to follow. When our daughter was raped, we had no idea what we would face. Steve Kelly was [a] guide and advocate throughout the criminal process—making an impossible process manageable. Steve also helped us achieve civil justice by holding the institution that allowed the rape to occur accountable. Steve is a warrior for victims who works selflessly and tirelessly on behalf of his clients. Father of a sexual assault survivor

Watch Steve's Interview on the Today Show

St Paul's Boarding School Case

Steve Kelly is a Partner in the Baltimore and DC offices of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, a national law firm with offices in the District of Columbia, New York, California, Tennessee, and Maryland, and a Co-Chair of the firm’s Criminal/Sexual Violence Practice Group. He received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and his B.A. from American University.

Steve is one of a handful of lawyers in the country capable of truly fighting for a victim’s rights in both criminal and civil cases. Recent advances in law provide victims of violence with a number of critical rights in criminal cases. By protecting victim safety, privacy and the victim’s right to meaningfully participate in the criminal process, we prevent our clients from being re-victimized from the criminal process and strengthen the victim’s ability to bring civil claims against perpetrators and responsible third parties.

Steve currently represents seven female scientists in their landmark Title IX class action lawsuit against Dartmouth College in New Hampshire federal court. Brought on behalf of current and former female graduate students and undergraduates in Dartmouth’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences (“PBS”), the lawsuit alleges that Dartmouth willfully ignored more than a decade of widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination by tenured professors in the department.

Steve has been fighting for crime victims since 1988 when his older sister was raped and murdered. While in high school, he developed a curriculum on preventing violence and treating the victim with dignity and respect that is still taught in Maryland schools. As a teenager, Steve fought for an amendment to Maryland’s constitution for crime victim rights. After college, he led a non-profit devoted to matching crime victims with a lawyer. While at Georgetown University Law Center, Steve helped fight for what became the Crime Victim Rights Act of 2004. He has been recognized for his advocacy by the National Crime Victim Law Institute, the Governors of Florida and Maryland, the American Bar Association, the Maryland Crime Victim Resource Center, and American University, and others.

Steve represents victims of criminal and sexual violence in criminal and civil proceedings on cases involving: sexual violence in schools, colleges, universities and graduate schools; child sexual abuse; criminal and sexual assaults at hotels, banks, ATMs, retail stores, apartment buildings; drunk and impaired driving, voyeurism, and other civil cases arising from criminal acts.

Prior to joining Sanford Heisler Sharp, Steve was a partner at the regional law firm of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, where he founded a crime victim practice group. Prior to that, Steve litigated antitrust and complex commercial ligation cases for Miles & Stockbridge and DLA Piper.


  • J.D., Georgetown University Law Center, 2003, cum laude
    • Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy
  • B.A., American University, 1997, magna cum laude and with university honors


  • Honorable Richard D. Bennett, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland

Bar Admissions

  • Maryland
  • District of Columbia

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Mr. Kelly has litigated numerous landmark cases for crime victims, including Paroline vs. U.S., U.S. Supreme Court; Prout, et al. v. St. Paul’s School, D. N.H., Doe v. Cabrera, D.D.C., Smolinski v. Gleason, Conn. S.C.; Doe v. Bardell, D. Md.; Jane Doe, et al. v. Kesher Israel, et al., D.C. Superior Court; Doe v. Penn Parking, et al., D.C. Superior Court; Doe v. Cardin School, Baltimore City Circuit Court; Ceaser v. Morgan State University, Baltimore City Circuit Court.

  • 2021 Lawdragon 500 Plaintiff Employment Lawyer
  • National Policy Team, Marcy’s Law for All (2017-Present)
  • Chair, Maryland State Board of Victim Services (2016-Present)
  • Advisory Board, National Crime Victim Law Institute (2015-Present)
  • Adjunct Professor, University of Baltimore Graduate School (2012-Present)
  • Board of Governors, Federal Bar Association Maryland Chapter (2013-present)
  • Roper Victim Assistance Academy Award for Outstanding Contribution to Victim Services (2013)
  • Permanent Member, Judicial Conference of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (2009-present)
  • Commissioner, Maryland Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (2009-2016)
  • Law Clerk, Honorable Richard D. Bennett (2004-2005)
  • Maryland Super Lawyers® - Selected for inclusion in the area of General Litigation, Civil Rights/First Amendment (2010-Present)
  • National Crime Victim Law Institute’s Legal Advocacy Award (2012)
  • MADD Maryland Operations Council (2012-present)
  • Miles & Stockbridge Pro Bono Award (2009)
  • Champion for Crime Victims Award presented by Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center (2008)
  • Maryland Governor’s Award for Service to Crime Victims (2000)
  • The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center: Board of Directors (2000-present)
  • American University’s Award for Service to the University Community (1997)
  • Florida Governor’s Award for Drug & Crime Free Schools 1998
  • December 6, 2018, Panelist/Speaker
    The American Association For Justice – Class Action Seminar, Emerging Cases: Litigation Updates and Trends to Watch, “Defeating Goliath—Sex Abuse Class Action Cases”

Provided a chapter in Can They Do That? Understanding Prosecutorial Discretion. American Bar Association. May 2020.

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