United States District Court, D. Maryland
David Copperthite, United States Magistrate Judge
the Maryland Board of Law Examiners (the "Board")
and Johnathan Azrael, John Mudd, David Ralph, and Matthew
Mills (collectively "Defendants"), move this Court
to dismiss the Complaint of pro se Plaintiff, Solon
Phillips, for constitutional vagueness, civil rights
violations, due process violations, and gross negligence (the
"Motion to Dismiss") (ECF No. 18). After
considering the Motion to Dismiss and the responses thereto
(ECF Nos. 20, 21), the Court finds that no hearing is
necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the
reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss.
is forty-five years old and graduated from the American
University Washington College of Law in 2008 with a juris
doctor degree. ECF No. 7 at 2, ¶¶ 4-5. While
Plaintiff was in law school, he and his ex-wife went through
divorce proceedings. Id. at 6-8, ¶¶ 33,
39-42. During the tumultuous proceedings, Plaintiff filed a
motion to recuse the judge presiding over his divorce for
being biased against him in issuing certain orders.
Id. at 7, ¶ 40. In November 2008, the judge
recanted her previous controversial ruling and closed
Plaintiffs divorce case. Id. at 7, ¶ 42.
Unbeknownst to Plaintiff, after closing his case, the judge
sent a letter to the Board recommending they deny his
admission to the Maryland bar. Id. at 7-8, ¶
pursuing an MBA degree, in February 2011, Plaintiff sat for
the bar exam, which he passed. Id. at 8, ¶ 45.
Prior to graduating law school, Plaintiff had attended a
Character Committee interview in 2007, and had received a
favorable recommendation from his interviewer. Id.
at 8, ¶ 46. After Plaintiff did not receive his expected
tickets to the June 2011 bar admission ceremony, Plaintiff
was informed he needed to fill out a new bar application,
which he did. Id. at 8, ¶¶ 47-49. After
inquiring over several months about when he would be sworn
in, Plaintiff was informed his prior divorce judge's
letter to the Board had surfaced, and he was required to
attend a character hearing. Id. at 8, ¶ 50. At
the end of the hearing, Plaintiff was informed that his
application was being held open, and after he updated his
application with a copy of his credit report a decision would
be made. Id. at 9, ¶ 55.
2013, while Plaintiffs bar application was still pending, a
member of an online support group of which Plaintiff was a
part asked Plaintiff for help handling interactions with her
ex-husband's new wife. Id. at 10, ¶¶
66-67. Plaintiff had never met or spoken on the phone with
this woman, but he emailed her a copy of a cease-and-desist
letter she could send to her ex-husband's new wife.
Id. at 10, ¶ 68. After the member approved the
contents of the letter, Plaintiff decided it needed to be
more effective. Id. at 11, ¶ 69. In 2007, while
in law school, Plaintiff had incorporated a law firm for
himself, his father, and his high school friend called
Phillips, Phillips, and Dow, LLC. Id. at 10, ¶
64. In addition to prematurely incorporating, Plaintiff also
purchased letterhead for the firm in 2007. Id. at
10, ¶ 65. In 2013, while assisting the member, he
printed the cease-and-desist letter on the 2007 firm
letterhead and signed his father's-a licensed Maryland
attorney- name to the letter without his father's
knowledge. Id. at 11, ¶ 69. When the
member's ex-husband's new wife received the letter,
she filed a complaint with the Maryland Attorney Grievance
Commission, who opened an investigation into Plaintiffs
father. Id. at 11, ¶¶ 73-74. Plaintiff was
summoned to be a witness in his father's disbarment
hearing, and his father was ultimately disbarred.
Id. at 11, ¶¶ 75-76; see also Attorney
Grievance Comm'n v. Phillips, 451 Md. 653 (2017). At
some point after learning about the disbarment proceedings
against his father, Plaintiff asked his attorney to inform
the Board of the dispute. ECF No. 7 at 11, ¶ 78. As a
result of the pending action against his father, Plaintiff,
on the advice of counsel, withdrew his bar application in
2015. Id. at 12, ¶ 80.
2016, Plaintiff resubmitted his Maryland bar application.
Id. at 12, ¶ 84. Plaintiff took and passed the
Maryland bar exam again in February 2017. Id. at 12,
¶¶ 85-86. After finding out he passed the Maryland
bar exam for the second time, Plaintiff decided to apply to
the Florida bar in May 2017. Id at 12, ¶¶
86-87. Also in May 2017, Plaintiff had an interview with
Character Committee member Deborah Johnson. Id. at
12, ¶ 88. Plaintiff alleges he disclosed his application
■ to the Florida bar and his involvement with his
father's disbarment hearing to Ms. Johnson, who gave
Plaintiff a favorable recommendation. Id. at 13,
¶ 89. In June 2017, Plaintiff received notice from the
Board that he would have a character hearing in July 2017.
Id. at 13, ¶ 91. Plaintiff alleges Defendants
did not provide him with a copy of Ms. Johnson's report
ahead of the hearing, violating a Maryland rule regarding
this procedure. Id. at 13, ¶ 92. At the
hearing, the Board wanted to discuss Plaintiffs (1)
unauthorized practice of law, (2) contribution to his
father's disbarment, and (3) pattern of lack of candor
and failure to abide by the law. Id. at 13, ¶
93. In October 2017, the Board issued a final recommendation
that Plaintiff be denied admission to the bar. Id.
at 14, ¶ 101.
Plaintiff received a favorable recommendation from the
Character Committee and an unfavorable recommendation from
the Board, per Maryland Rule, the Court of Appeals of
Maryland issued Plaintiff a notice of hearing for Plaintiff
to argue the Court of Appeals should accept the
Committee's recommendation. Id. at 15,
¶¶ 104-05. On November 6, 2017, at the hearing,
Plaintiff argued that the Board erroneously believed he had
not disclosed information he had actually disclosed.
Id. at 16, ¶ 111.
November 30, 2017, before the Court of Appeals had issued a
decision on his hearing and application, Plaintiff attended
an interview with the North American Securities
Administrators Association ("NASAA"). Id.
at 16, ¶ 112; ECF No. 18-1 at 9. Plaintiff had applied
for a position with NASAA with a resume that listed his email
address as "email@example.com," stated he had
worked as a "Junior Associate" at Arnold &
Porter, LLP for seven years, and stated he had acquired
"Maryland Bar Admission." ECF No. 18-1 at 9-10.
During Plaintiffs interview with A. Valerie Mirko, Esq., Ms.
Mirko learned that Plaintiff was not a member of the Maryland
bar-or any bar- and the interview ended. Id. ; ECF
No. 7 at 16, ¶ 115. Ms. Mirko advised the Board of the
incident. Id. at 16, ¶ 116. On December 11,
2017, the Board submitted an addendum to its recommendation
to the Court of Appeals detailing the incident between
Plaintiff and Ms. Mirko. Id; ECF No. 18-1 at 9.
December 20, 2017, the Court of Appeals published an opinion
denying Plaintiffs . application to the Maryland bar. In
re Phillips, 547 Md. 113 (2017). The Court of Appeals found
that Plaintiff "ha[d] not met his burden of showing his
good moral character and fitness for the practice of law due
to his continuous 'failure [and] refusal to answer fully
and candidly any question in the application."'
Id. at 127 (quoting Md. Rule 19-203(d)). The Court
was particularly disturbed by Plaintiffs actions leading to
his father's disbarment and his conduct regarding his
NASAA application. Id. at 127-28. The Court found
Plaintiff "ha[d] demonstrated a disturbing pattern of
selective candor, which 'impinges upon his character and
fitness to practice law."' Id. (quoting
Application of Strzempek, 407 Md. 102, 114 (2008)).
Ultimately, the Court of Appeals concluded that Plaintiff
would not be admitted to the Maryland bar.
August 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed this suit in this Court
against Defendants, alleging constitutional violations of
vagueness, civil rights, and due process and gross
negligence, seeking that this Court declare Defendants'
application of Maryland's character and fitness standards
as applied to Plaintiff was unconstitutional, declare
Defendants grossly negligent for failing to recommend
Plaintiffs admission to the Maryland bar, and declare
"that Plaintiff must be admitted to practice law in
Maryland." ECF No. 7 at 33. On October 23,
2019, Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for the failure to
state a claim. ECF No. 18. Plaintiff filed an opposition on
November 5, 2019, ECF No. 20, to which Defendant replied on
November 12, 2019, ECF No. 21.
matter is now fully briefed, and the Court has reviewed
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, as well as the responses
thereto.: For the following reasons, ...