IN RE: THE APPLICATION OF SOLON PHILLIPS FOR ADMISSION TO THE BAR OF MARYLAND
Argued: November 6, 2017
Barbera, C.J. Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty,
case, we are asked to consider whether to grant the
application for admission to the Bar of Maryland of Solon
Phillips ("Mr. Phillips"). The Character Committee
for the Fourth Appellate Circuit of Maryland ("the
Committee") returned a favorable recommendation without
addressing the findings by this Court regarding Mr.
Phillips' unauthorized practice of law in an attorney
grievance proceeding. The findings by this Court in the
attorney grievance action, in addition to other concerns, led
the State Board of Law Examiners ("the Board") to
recommend that Mr. Phillips be denied admission to the Bar of
Maryland. For the reasons below, we agree with the Board that
Mr. Phillips has not demonstrated that he currently possesses
good moral character and fitness for the practice of law as
required by Md. Rule 19-203. As such, we deny Mr.
Phillips' admission to the Bar of Maryland.
Phillips originally filed an application with the Board for
admission to the Bar of Maryland on January 10, 2008. Mr.
Phillips was ultimately successful on the bar examination
held in February 2011. During the time between his
application and his success on the bar examination, Mr.
Phillips filed nine updates to his application and attended a
hearing with the Committee in January 2012. The Committee
agreed to hold the record open for Mr. Phillips to supplement
his application until July 17, 2015. The Committee issued a
Report and Recommendation on November 4, 2015, recommending
that Mr. Phillips' first application for admission to the
Bar of Maryland be denied. Mr. Phillips obtained counsel in
preparation for the hearing before the Board, which counsel
for Mr. Phillips was able to postpone. Ultimately, Mr.
Phillips withdrew his application to the Bar of Maryland on
July 1, 2016, prior to the Board hearing.
August 24, 2016, Mr. Phillips submitted a second application
with the Board for admission to the Bar of Maryland. Attached
to the second application was a document titled
"Supplement: Proof of Good Moral Character, " in
which Mr. Phillips attempted to persuade the Board that he is
of good moral character and fit for the practice of law.
Specifically, the supplement discussed his financial
responsibility, moral character, his voluntary choice to take
classes on professional responsibility, and his voluntary
choice to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility
Examination ("MPRE"), which is not a requirement of
the Maryland Bar. In the supplement, Mr. Phillips requested
to be admitted to the Maryland Bar because of his character,
responsibility, and candor.
Mr. Phillips' second application for admission to the
Maryland Bar was pending, this Court issued its opinion in
Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Maryland v.
Phillips, in which we ultimately disbarred Dalton
Phillips ("Mr. Dalton Phillips"), Mr. Phillips'
father, as a result of Attorney Grievance Commission's
Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action. 451 Md. 653
(2017). This Court concluded that Mr. Dalton Phillips
violated several Rules of Professional Conduct when he
assisted Mr. Phillips, his son, in the unauthorized practice
of law. Specifically, this Court found that Mr. Phillips
graduated from law school in 2008, but did not seek admission
to the Bar of Maryland until 2011. In August 2009, Mr.
Phillips discussed forming a law firm with Mr. Dalton
Phillips. In pursuit of that goal, Mr. Phillips filed
Articles of Organization with the Maryland Department of
Assessments and Taxation on behalf of the law firm Phillips,
Phillips and Dow, LLC. The law firm was to include Mr.
Phillips, Anthony Dow, a friend of Mr. Phillips from high
school, and Mr. Dalton Phillips. This Court could not discern
from the record whether Anthony Dow was aware that his name
was listed as a member in the law firm. In establishing the
law firm, Mr. Phillips "created a law firm insignia;
hired an answering service for the firm; reserved a domain
name; and created and ordered letterhead that included the
firm name, Solon Phillips's home address, the phone
number associated with the answering service, and the firm
website. He also ordered business cards for himself using the
firm insignia and the suffix 'Esq.'."
Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Phillips, 451 Md.
establishing a law firm before being admitted to the Maryland
Bar, Mr. Phillips later met Crystal Meehan on an internet
support group. Crystal Meehan told Mr. Phillips about
"unwanted communications that [she] had been receiving
from her ex-husband's current wife, Abigail Meehan,
" who lived in Indiana. Id. at 661. Mr.
Phillips drafted a cease and desist letter, ordering Abigail
Meehan to discontinue all communications with Crystal Meehan
as those communications constituted harassment. The letter
also threatened Abigail Meehan with legal action. Mr.
Phillips then "corresponded over e-mail with Crystal
Meehan, provided her with a draft of the letter signed
'Solon Phillips JD/MBA, ' and received her approval
of the letter. He then printed the letter on Phillips,
Phillips and Dow, LLC letterhead. The content of the final
letter was altered in only one regard-Solon Phillips signed
[Mr. Dalton Phillips'] name to the letter, not his
own." Id. After receiving the cease and desist
letter, Abigail Meehan attempted to contact the firm and
ultimately corresponded with Mr. Dalton Phillips. In an email
to Abigail Meehan, Mr. Dalton Phillips stated that the
"letter was issued without [his] knowledge, " and
acknowledged "that Ms. Crystal Meehan is a client of
[Phillips, Phillips, and Dow, LLC]." Id. at
2014, Abigail Meehan filed a complaint with the Maryland
Attorney Grievance Commission, alleging that the law firm and
the attorneys should not be sending her letters. In response
to the complaint, the Attorney Grievance Commission began
investigating Mr. Dalton Phillips, the law firm, and Mr.
Phillips. After the investigation, the Attorney Grievance
Commission filed a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial
Action against Mr. Dalton Phillips. This Court concluded that
"[Mr.] Phillips was engaged in the unauthorized practice
of law. [Mr. Dalton Phillips] had actual knowledge of the
unauthorized practice of law at the time Abigail Meehan
emailed him a copy of the cease and desist letter. In his
email to Abigail Meehan on May 29, 2014, [Mr. Dalton
Phillips] ratified [Mr.] Phillips' unauthorized
practice." Id. at 673.
reviewing the second application, the Committee issued a
second Report and Recommendation on June 2, 2017,
recommending that Mr. Phillips be admitted to the Bar of
Maryland. However, the Committee did not fully consider this
Court's opinion in Attorney Grievance Comm'n v.
Phillips. The second application for admission to the
Maryland Bar was then submitted to the Board. After reviewing
the Committee Report and Recommendation, the Board concluded
that there may be grounds for denying Mr. Phillips'
application. As such, the Board held a four-member panel
hearing on July 21, 2017,  for which Mr. Phillips appeared
represented by counsel, Paul Mark Sandler ("Mr.
Sandler"). Pursuant to Md. Rule 19-203(b), the Board
offered Mr. Phillips an opportunity to withdraw his
application before the Board submitted a Report, recommending
the denial of Mr. Phillips' application, to this Court.
Mr. Phillips declined to withdraw his application.
October 10, 2017, the Board filed its Report and
Recommendation, concluding that Mr. Phillips did not meet his
burden in proving that he possesses the character and fitness
for admission to the Bar of Maryland. In the Report and
Recommendation, the Board considered the factual findings and
conclusions in Attorney Grievance Comm'n v.
Phillips. Specifically, the Board found that Mr.
Phillips admitted to drafting and sending the cease and
desist letter to Abigail Meehan, thereby also admitting that
he was practicing law without authorization. Moreover, the
Board found that Mr. Phillips failed to disclose to the Board
in any of the updates or supplements to his original
application for admission that the Attorney Grievance
Commission was investigating Mr. Dalton Phillips as a result
of his unauthorized practice of law. The Board reported that
Mr. Phillips never informed the Board about the Attorney
Grievance Commission investigation before Mr. Phillips
withdrew his original application on July 1, 2016.
of Mr. Phillips failure to disclose this information, the
Board noted further that the document attached to the second
application, "Supplement: Proof of Good Moral Character,
" included a passage reading, "I had no idea that
my acts as it pertains to my father's hearing constituted
the unauthorized practice of law." Yet, in the Board
hearing, Mr. Phillips testified that he knew it was wrong at
the time. In addition to Mr. Phillips' omissions
regarding the Attorney Grievance Commission matter, the Board
also reported that Mr. Phillips applied for the Florida Bar
in May 2017. Mr. Phillips failed to notify the Committee
during his initial character interview of this application.
Moreover, Mr. Phillips did not update his Maryland Bar
application answers to reflect his application to the Bar of
all of the Board members recommended that this Court deny Mr.
Phillips' admission to the Maryland Bar. Specifically,
the Board was convinced that Mr. Phillips did not meet his
burden of proof in demonstrating that he is of good moral