By Bruce Jervis
Individuals involved in civil litigation are entitled to represent themselves, to appear pro se. They are not required to hire a licensed attorney in order to participate in the judicial process. What happens, however, when a party to litigation is a group of individuals or an organized business entity? Can a non-attorney member or proprietor represent the broader entity?
The Oregon Supreme Court recently addressed this issue in the context of a familial group engaged in a common enterprise. The group appointed a non-attorney family member to represent them in a dispute with a material supplier. The family had no recourse when, essentially unrepresented, they suffered a bad result.
This was a relatively easy case because the family group was not a legal entity. But what about an officer of a corporation, a partner in a partnership, or a member of a limited liability company? Can the legal entity proceed pro se through a non-attorney owner? Court rules and precedent vary by jurisdiction, so it is difficult to state a general rule. But does it not seem reasonable that a business could be represented by a non-attorney proprietor? Comments are welcomed.