Wednesday, December 20, 2017
The Maryland Court of Appeals has denied an application for admission
The applicant, Mr. Solon Phillips, failed to promptly disclose to the Character Committee and the State Board of Law Examiners information pertaining to his unauthorized practice of law, leading to his father’s, Mr. Dalton Phillips’, disbarment. Specifically, Mr. Solon Phillips chose not to immediately file a supplement to his Maryland Bar application and instead decided to disclose this information during his interview with the Character Committee and at a hearing before the State Board of Law Examiners. Moreover, Mr. Solon Phillips failed to promptly file a supplement to his application to indicate his application to the Bar of Florida. Again, Mr. Solon Phillips chose to wait to disclose this information during the interview with the Character Committee and the hearing before the State Board of Law Examiners. These conscious decisions on the part of Mr. Solon Phillips reflect a pattern of failing to meet the standard of absolute candor. This pattern of selective candor, along with the underlying concern of Mr. Solon Phillips’ prior unauthorized practice of law, warrants denying his application for admission to the Bar of Maryland.
The applicant filed a series of supplements after passing the bar exam.
There are two issues with Mr. Phillips’ response. First, the Attorney Grievance Commission began investigating Mr. Dalton Phillips based on the letter sent by Mr. Phillips in his father’s name in 2014. Instead of immediately supplementing his original application to the Maryland Bar, Mr. Phillips waited until after the reported opinion by this Court to attach a supplement to his second Maryland Bar application addressing his unauthorized practice of law. Secondly, this attachment, titled “Supplement: Proof of Good Moral Character,” includes two brief sentences regarding the Attorney Grievance Commission matter, one of which reads: “More recently, at a disciplinary hearing for my father, Dalton Phillips, I was found to have assisted him in the unauthorized practice of law[.]” (Emphasis added.) Mr. Phillips’ representations in the supplement suggest that Mr. Phillips was unwilling to fully acknowledge the reprehensible nature of his actions in sending a letter to an individual on the letterhead of a non-existent law firm in an attorney’s name without the attorney’s knowledge or consent. Therefore, this supplement fails to fully address Question 18 and fails to show this Court that Mr. Phillips understands the gravity of his past actions.
In addition to the lack of candor Mr. Phillips showed in relation to his unauthorized practice of law, Mr. Phillips also admitted during the Board hearing that he did not supplement in writing his answer to Question 17B on his application to the Maryland Bar, which asks whether an applicant has ever applied for admission to the Bar of another jurisdiction. Specifically, in response to a question from the Board about the timing of his application to the Florida Bar, Mr. Phillips indicated that he applied to the Bar of Florida in May 2017. When the Board further inquired whether he supplemented his Maryland Bar application to reflect his application to the Florida Bar, Mr. Phillips answered that he did not supplement his application to the Maryland Bar because he was unaware there was a question pertaining to additional bar applications. In selectively choosing when and how to reveal information asked on the Maryland Bar application, Mr. Phillips committed the same errors as Mr. Strzempek. Just as this Court opined in Application of Strzempek, we conclude that Mr. Phillips’ actions do not satisfy the requirements of mandatory and full disclosure. 407 Md. at 113.
Even more disturbing than Mr. Phillips’ failure to promptly and fully supplement his Maryland Bar application is the fact that Mr. Phillips continued to display a lack of candor regarding his admission to the Bar of Maryland as recently as November 30, 2017. This Court is extremely disturbed by the facts contained in the Board’s addendum to its Report and Recommendation. Specifically, this Court finds inexcusable that Mr. Phillips misrepresented his status as a licensed Maryland attorney on a resume that he submitted in support of a job application. Worse still is the fact that Mr. Phillips answered a question during an interview with a potential employer that he was not licensed in Maryland, but would be admitted to the Maryland Bar in December 2017.
We are persuaded that these incidents summarized in Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Phillips were not one instance of bad conduct, especially because Mr. Phillips again misrepresented his status as a Maryland attorney as recently as November 2017. This Court finds that both of these continuing patterns reflect poorly on Mr. Phillips’ present moral character.