Court: Lawyer necessary in federal litigation

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Although the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions of a defendant and his company for violations of the Clean Water Act in an unpublished opinion today, the appellate court wrote a separate opinion to discuss the issue of whether a limited liability corporation can proceed pro se in federal litigation if an attorney had already worked on the case.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals addressed this issue in a September 2008 opinion ruling owners of an LLC must be represented by an attorney to appeal a decision in federal court. In today's opinion, United States of America v. Derrik Hagerman and Wabash Environmental Technologies, LLC, Nos. 07-3874, 07-3875, the judges had to consider whether Hagerman could continue pro se because an attorney representing Derrik Hagerman and his company had filed an opening brief and reply brief on behalf of the company. Hagerman then fired his attorney, hasn't replaced him, and now wants to represent the company pro se.

The case that comes closest to addressing this issue is Dial-A-Mattress Franchise Corp. v. Page, 880 F.2d 675 (2d Cir. 1989), but in that case, Page had incorporated his business just before his appeal was argued. Because the injunction was targeted specifically at Page and not the company, he could continue to appear pro se.

"In this case, with the appeal fully briefed and the merits free from doubt, we would be mistaken to grant the (imputed) motion," wrote Judge Richard Posner. "For that would allow Wabash to argue in future regulatory proceedings that the merits of its defense had never been fully adjudicated."

The federal appellate court found it best to affirm the judgment of the District Court in order to "lay to rest any doubt about the company's guilt."

"But it bears emphasis that at any point in a federal litigation at which a party that is not entitled to proceed pro se finds itself without a lawyer though given a reasonable opportunity to obtain one, the court is empowered to bar the party from further participation in the litigation," he wrote.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.