ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 6 - Issue: 9 - 03/03/2017

Can a Non-Attorney Member Represent a Broader Group?

 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.



some courts have local rules on the subject. for instance, Allegheny county, PA requires that corporate litigants be represented by counsel, except in cases where the amount in controversy is $15,000 or less. See Allegheny County Local Rule. 200. I am not aware of a PA state rule counterpart to this rule.
Posted by: brad mellor - Friday, March 03, 2017 11:24 AM

Rules like this can be found in many jurisdictions. The non-attorney representative usually cannot represent other individuals unless they are so united in interest that they really are one party. Similar rules apply in New York City Commercial Claim and Small Claim parts.
Posted by: Kevin Connolly - Friday, March 03, 2017 12:09 PM


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