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Non-Attorney May Not Represent A Trust In A Legal Proceeding

Pipes v. Weyerhaeuser Co., [Ms. 2190359, Sept. 11, 2020], ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2020). The court (Thompson, P.J.; Moore, Donaldson, Edwards, and Hanson, JJ., concur) dismisses an appeal from a summary judgment entered by the Clarke Circuit Court in favor of Weyerhaeuser in a dispute arising from a lease agreement upon finding that the appellant who filed the Notice of Appeal on behalf of a Trust was not an attorney and therefore the Notice of Appeal was a nullity.

The court reiterates that “[p]ursuant to § 34-3-6(a), Ala. Code 1975, a nonlawyer may represent himself or herself in court but is prohibited from representing another person or a separate legal entity.” Ms. *3. One engages in the practice of law if he or she:

“[i]n a representative capacity appears as an advocate or draws papers, pleadings, or documents, or performs any act in connection with proceedings pending or prospective before a court or a body, board, committee, commission, or officer constituted by law or having authority to take evidence in or settle or determine controversies in the exercise of the judicial power of the state or any subdivision thereof.”

§ 34-3-6(b)(1), Ala. Code 1975. Additionally, practicing law without a license is a crime:

“[i]f any person shall, without having become duly licensed to practice, ... practice or assume to act or hold himself or herself out to the public as a person qualified to practice or carry on the calling of a lawyer, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not to exceed $500, or be imprisoned for a period not to exceed six months, or both.”

§ 34-3-1, Ala. Code 1975.

“‘[T]he courts of this State have held that a person must be a licensed attorney to represent a separate legal entity, such as a corporation. In Stage Door Development, Inc. v. Broadcast Music, Inc., 698 So. 2d 787, 787 (Ala. Civ. App. 1997), the Court of Civil Appeals held that “[o]ne who is not an attorney may not appear as an advocate on behalf of a corporation, even one he wholly owns, without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.” Further, in A-OK Constr. Co. v. Castle Constr. Co., 594 So. 2d 53, 54 (Ala. 1992), this Court stated that generally “a corporation can appear in court only through an attorney.” Accord Ex parte Lamberth, 242 Ala. 165, 5 So. 2d 622 (1942).’

Ex parte Ghafary, 738 So. 2d 778, 779 (Ala. 1998).” Rimpsey Agency, Inc. v. Johnston, 218 So. 3d 1242, 1244-45 (Ala. Civ. App. 2016).

Ms. **3-4. Reviewing (Ms. **5-6) other reported appellate opinions holding non-attorneys could not represent other legal entities in judicial proceedings, the court concludes that the Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant, a non-attorney, on behalf of the Trust, a separate legal entity, is a “nullity.” Ms. *7. Accordingly, “[a]s a result, in essence, no Notice of Appeal was filed; therefore, the jurisdiction of this court was not invoked, and this appeal must be dismissed.” Ms. **8-9.

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