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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Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions of a defendant and his company for violations of the Clean Water Act in an unpublished opinion today, the appellate court wrote a separate opinion to discuss the issue of whether a limited liability corporation can proceed pro se in federal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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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