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Ask Barrister Your Own Question
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 37362
Experience:  16 yrs practice, Civil, Criminal, Domestic, Realtor, Landlord 26 yrs
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I am the defendant in a small claims case in Outagamie County

Customer Question

I am the defendant in a small claims case in Outagamie County (Wisconsin). At the pretrial hearing, neither the plaintiff (president of the corporation) nor her atty showed up.
Instead, the husband of the showed up acting as an "authorized "agent" of the company. I do not know if he met the criteria for being an authorized agent or not...does he need to file something with the court?
Court rules for Outagami state attorneys appearing at the pretrial must have authority to act on behalf of their client(s). However, the plaintiff was represented by her husband who did not have the authority to negotiate a settlement with me (I proposed a settlement that he stated he thought was fair but needed his wife to make the decision.)
Their atty told me that even if the court did not accept the husband as an agent, they would simply refile the petition.
Any feedback will be greatly appreciated - thanks!
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Barrister replied 2 years ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can..From a purely legal perspective, the judge should have dismissed the case if neither the plaintiff nor their attorney appeared in court. Unless the husband was also an attorney, he had no legal standing to appear on behalf of the corporation because a corp can't represent itself in court without an attorney. This would technically be considered unauthorized practice of law..But their attorney is correct that they could just refile the case if it was dismissed by the judge due to no one appearing in a legal capacity to represent the corporation. The only way they would be prevented would be if the judge dismissed the case "with prejudice" meaning it couldn't be refiled...thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The plaintiff is a corporation but this matter is in small claims court, does that matter?Their atty cited Wisconsin code...799.06  Actions; how commenced, pleadings, appearances.(2) A person may commence and prosecute or defend an action or proceeding under this chapter and may appear in his, her, or its own proper person or by an attorney regularly authorized to practice in the courts of this state. Under this subsection, a person is considered to be acting in his, her, or its own proper person if the appearance is by a member, as defined in s.(###) ###-####(15), agent, or authorized employee of the person, or by an agent of the member or an authorized employee of the agent. An assignee of any cause of action under this chapter shall not appear by a full-time authorized employee, unless the employee is an attorney regularly authorized to practice in the courts of this state.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Could the court find that the husband was "practicing law without a license?"
Expert:  Barrister replied 2 years ago.
Small claims court can have more "relaxed rules" than higher courts and it would appear that they would allow an "agent" of the "member" to appear on behalf of the entity. However, under the definition of "member" it refers to a member of an LLC, not an officer of a corporation..So I would argue that since the person was not an attorney, a member, or an agent of a member, then they still had no legal standing to represent the corp in court. The unauthorized practice of law statutes are covered under Wisconsin SCR Chapter 23.And yes, if you brought it to the attention of the court that the person had no legal standing to represent the corp they could potentially be cited for unauthorized practice of law. However, this is rarely done as the judge normally just dismissed the case or grants a continuance until someone with legal authority to represent the corp can appear...thanksBarrister