Can I Appear Pro Se to Defend an Easement I Am Being Sued Ove?

Full Question:

A woman owns land in her name only but she was sued along with John Does 1-5 over an easement, her husband being one of the John Does but not named by name, can her husband and herself act as Pro Se together in their defense?
11/01/2009   |   Category: Courts ยป Pro Se   |   State: Montana   |   #19405

Answer:

In civil cases, litigants have a statutory right, first embodied in the Judiciary Act of 1789, to represent themselves. Typically, if there was previously an attorney on the record as representing a party, the attorney will file a notice of withdrawal with the court and the party may proceed pro se without the permission of the court. There are limited exceptions, such as whistleblower claims, but a person defending a property dispute may appear pro se.

Only people can appear pro se. A corporation is not a "person" for this purpose. In other words, a person who is not an attorney may represent himself or herself, but may not represent a corporation, even if the person is the sole owner of the corporation. The corporation must be represented by a lawyer. You may appear in court with the lawyer for the corporation, but only the lawyer can "speak" for the corporation in court.

The United States Supreme Court has prohibited any artificial entity from being represented by persons who are not licensed attorneys. See, e.g., Rowland v. California Men's Colony, 506 U.S. 194, 201-03 (1993) (citing cases dating from 1824 forward holding that a corporation may only be represented by licensed counsel).

As the courts have recognized, the rationale for that rule applies equally to all artificial entities. Thus, save in a few aberrant cases, the lower courts have uniformly held that 28 U.S.C. § 1654, providing that "parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel," does not allow corporations, partnerships, or associations to appear in federal court otherwise than through a licensed attorney.