One of the issues Anglican Watch has been exploring in the Aaron Solomon cases is allegations of corruption within the Davidson County, TN, domestic relations court. I am deeply concerned about these issues.
As I have explored the case, I’ve talked with many women who have said they were steamrollered in court, especially in front of the late Judge Phillip Smith. I believe this happened in the Solomon divorce case.
As a young attorney, I did numerous domestic relations cases. That is not unusual because domestic relations is arduous work, even by the standards of the legal profession. Cases can drag on forever; tiny issues escalate to WWIII, tension is high, and the hours interminable.
Thus, it’s where young attorneys often get stuck.
Yet, throughout the experience, I found most family court judges caring and empathetic. And I enjoyed the work, with its intricate matrix of strategy, tactics, evidence, and factfinding.
Outcomes weren’t always perfect, as one would expect.
And more than once, I’d see one of the judges socially years later, only to mutually sigh and say, “I wish that one had come out differently.”
Of course, I know this is far from the universal experience. Perceptions of arrogance and bias plague many domestic relations courts. Women and children in large swathes of the U.S. judicial system view the system as corrupt, uncaring, and worse.
Even so, Davidson County appears particularly biased. Indeed, I have identified dozens of cases in which evidence was brushed aside, ignored, or in which the court made findings of fact that were simply unsupported by the evidence.
In the Solomon case, our review of the pleadings, rulings, and other paperwork — which is voluminous but incomplete — suggests a court with scant regard for equity or justice. Specifically, we see multiple references to Angie Solomon as “that crazy woman” and other inappropriate judicial commentary.
We have confirmed these findings via conversations with attorneys who remember the case, court staff, and law enforcement officials.
So, let’s call a spade a spade: Such commentary is entirely inappropriate.
Yes, humanity being what it is, a certain amount of eye-rolling goes on behind the scenes, even in the best cases. It’s a survival strategy for judges, attorneys, guardians at litem (GALs), and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASAs). But it should never find its way into notes, court records, Post-Its, or documents.
And you don’t mock a litigant. Ever.
Carrying that notion forward, we do not find Angie Solomon to be mentally ill; far from it. Nor do we see any evidence that she has been mentally ill.
And if she were mentally ill, that would be all the more reason to act compassionately, develop a plan to help her recover, and provide stability for Grant and Gracie.
Yet instead, we see Angie jailed and ordered to pay support despite Aaron having come into a substantial inheritance. Even worse, the court denied her access to her children.
The latter is unconscionable, for even if she were suicidal, as Aaron claimed in court, there is little correlation between mental health and parenting skills. And again, to the extent there is, the focus should be on a positive path forward.
In making these findings, the court consistently brushed aside the evaluations of psychologists in the case, both independent mental health professionals and those assigned to evaluate Angie.
That begs the question: Why?
I’ll explore that issue more in a moment.
But the most heartrending part of things is that the court ignored the written report of the GAL, Heather Webb.
To be clear, I haven’t interviewed Webb, as I do not want to put her in a difficult position as an attorney. But her report, issued shortly after Grant Solomon’s death, is convincing and compelling in its conclusion that Aaron gamed the system.
I find it shocking, appalling, and unconscionable that a court — any court — could ignore the searing language of a GAL, who represents Grant and Gracie’s interests:
It is my firm belief that Aaron used wealth and personal connections to win favorable decisions to the detriment of Gracie, Grant, and Angie Solomon, leaving them open to harassment, sexual, mental and emotional abuse and leading to the untimely death of Grant.
Aaron has not, to my knowledge, had a mental evaluation in all of these years and there has still not been an investigation into the sexual abuse allegations of Gracie that night of August 2018.
Now, there’s an 18 year old that’s dead, with no investigation into his death, the only witness is Aaron and the reports of the incident are incomplete at best. Please investigate these incidents, so that Angie and Gracie may have some protection and possibly even some peace in their lives and so that no other person will be able to use the system the way Aaron has been able to.
Heather Webb, BPR 028043
Before we go further, let me share that I am not embarrassed to say this brings tears to my eyes.
And I say that as someone who’s been described as “emotionally one of the toughest people I know.”
Indeed, one friend, a psychologist, has rightly criticized me for being too emotionally impervious.
But how anyone, including a judge, could not read that language and have that reaction escapes me.
Allegations of corruption
To answer that question, I turn to the allegations of corruption that swirl in the court. Specifically, litigants — consistently women and children — have told me that they believe Judge Smith was corrupt.
Was he? I don’t know.
But it’s hard not to reach that conclusion when I see the unjudicial comments from the bench, the facial bias, and the inappropriate temperament. Maybe it’s why I never wound up a judge, but the death of a teenager would have me requesting, on my own, an independent review of the case. And Smith’s handling of the Solomon divorce is 100% pure sh**how.
Scott Parsley’s role
Another reference point in all of this is the representation of Aaron Solomon by attorney Scott Parsley.
To be clear, I don’t know Parsley. I’ve never come up against him in court. I’ve never met him.
But I’ve uncovered myriad allegations of corruption on his part, and they all appear to center on his representation of wealthy men in domestic relations cases.
These allegations arise in the context of an attorney disciplinary proceeding against Parsley.
In that case, Parsley improperly had a client sign papers, essentially signing valuable property over to him, after seeking his assistance in preventing foreclosure. Parsley then allegedly tried to sell the property to a third party.
The penalty? An ostensible 12-month suspension of his license, of which only three months were an actual suspension and a $355 fine.
Okay, right there, I am thinking, “Mini-Murdoch.”
What part of “fiduciary obligation” does the Tennessee bar not get? The fact that this behavior didn’t result in a criminal trial for fraud and disbarment sends me through the roof.
Nor was this the first time Parsley’s ethics have come under scrutiny. The Nashville Post reports:
According to a 2014 article in The Tennessean, in 1995 the District Attorney’s office launched an investigation to determine whether then-Probate Court Judge James Everett was inappropriately channeling legal fees toward attorneys with whom he had personal ties. One of the investigated attorneys, Bryan Lewis, worked in the same practice as Parsley at the time, the now-dissolved Barrett Johnston & Parsley.
The Tennessean reported that when Everett was absent from the bench, he appointed Parsley to preside and “in at least four instances, Parsley, sitting as special judge, awarded fees to Lewis.” The investigation ended after three years without charges being filed.
I also note that allegations of judicial corruption extend into Coffee County, where allegations swirl that Aaron Solomon paid a judge $30,000 to transfer the case to a more favorable venue.
I’ve included Webb’s report, filed with the court shortly after Grant’s death.
Next up, we’ll explore the role of Grace Chapel Church in all of this. And be assured—it smells every bit as bad as the Davidson County courts.