Civil Law Update

By Ceecee Paizs

Review of the Amicus Curiarum for February 2017 revealed the following civil cases of general interest:


Nicole Pilkington v. Roman Pilkington, II, No 2766, September Term 2015, filed November 29 2016.  Opinion by Leahy, Andrea, Judge

The parties were married in Germany while Father was stationed there with the Army and Mother was a German national.  One child was born to them, R.P. and another child, B.P. was not Father’s biological child, but whom he assisted Mother in raising.  When the parties divorced in Colorado, Mother was awarded full custody of B.P. and primary physical custody of R.P. with visitation to Father.  In addition, the order of divorce required court approval for either party to relocate R.P. unless the parties agreed to the relocation.  In 2014, Mother unilaterally relocated to Germany with both children.  Over one year later, Father brought the children to Maryland for a two month vacation and then filed ex parte petitions for emergency custody of the two children.  After a hearing, the trial court ordered Father to return both children to their mother in Germany until the court could conduct a full trial.  Mother did not return with the children for trial.  The trial court heard argument from Father and then granted sole legal and primary physical custody of R.P. to Father.

The Court of Special Appeals vacated and remanded the matter.  The Court held that the trial court exceeded the jurisdictional restraints imposed under the Maryland UCCJEA by entering an order that modified the Colorado order when Maryland was the child’s home state and there was no other jurisdictional basis to modify that order under FL §9.5-203.  The child did not reside in the state of Maryland for six months prior to the filing of the custody action, and therefore does not meet the “home state” within the meaning of the Maryland UCCJEA.  The Court did find that the circuit court had the authority under Subtitle 3 of the Maryland UCCJEA to enforce the already-existing Colorado order, which Mother had likely violated.  The case was remanded with instructions that the circuit court limit its order to its enforcement of authority.

Review of the Amicus Curiarum for March 2017 revealed the following civil cases of general interest:


Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Dalton F. Phillips, AG No. 47, September Term 2015, filed February 22, 2017.  Opinion by Barbera, Mary Ellen, Chief Judge

Respondent Dalton F. Phillips, (“Dalton”) was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1981 and worked with the federal government for over 35 years.  Dalton’s son, Solon Phillips (“Solon”) completed law school in 2008 but was never admitted to the Bar of Maryland or any other jurisdiction.  In 2009, after discussion the formation of the firm with Dalton, Solon filed Articles of Organization with the Maryland department of Assessments and Taxation establishing a law firm titled Phillips, Phillip and Dow, LLC which included Solon and a friend of his, Anthony Dow.  In 2014, Solon sent a cease and desist letter on behalf of Crystal Meehan ordering Abigail Meehan, the current wife of Crystal’s ex-husband, to cease communicating with her and signed Dalton’s name to the letter.  When Abigail attempted to contact the firm, she spoke with Dalton who indicated he knew nothing about the letter and that the firm was his son’s law firm.  Abigail followed up by emailing a copy of the letter she had received to Dalton and asking him to confirm that he did not represent Crystal.  Later, Dalton emailed Abigail stating that a junior attorney for the firm sent out the letter without advising him, against the firm’s practice, acknowledge that Crystal was a client of the firm and encouraged Abigail to cease communications with Crystal as directed in the letter.  Subsequent email communication reached Solon, who emailed Abigail stating that the firm did not represent Crystal and her attempts to contact the firm bordered and harassment.  Abigail filed a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission regarding Dalton’s conduct.  During the investigation by Bar Counsel, Dalton refused to identify the “junior Attorney” referenced in his email to Abigail, and failed to reply to requests for a meeting with Bar Counsel.  Bar Counsel 3ventuallyissued a subpoena for a statement under oath and Dalton filed a motion to quash the subpoena, which was denied.  Dalton appeared for the statement under oath, review of which led the hearing judge to conclude that Dalton knowingly and intentionally testified falsely as to several matters and had violated several MLRPC.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Dalton engaged in the practice of law in a law firm with a non- lawyer and ratified the unauthorized practice of law by Solon.  Further, Dalton violated the MLRPC through his obstruction of the disciplinary process in numerous ways, and filed a frivolous motion to quash Bar Counsel’s subpoena.  The Court assessed Dalton’s misconduct and aggravating factors, including his substantial experience in practice, his intentional and repeated falsehoods when testifying at the statement under oath and his bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary process and held that disbarment was the appropriate sanction.