LLCs must have attorneys in federal court

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Owners of limited liability companies must be represented by an attorney to appeal a decision in federal court, ruled the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today. Because a company and its president appealed a District Court's decision without an attorney, the appellate court dismissed the appeal.

In United States of America v. Derrik Hagerman and Wabash Environmental Technologies, LLC, No. 08-2670, Wabash and its president, Derrik Hagerman, appealed the District Court's dismissal of the government's petition for relief after Wabash agreed to start paying restitution and furnish specific financial information. The defendants were convicted of criminal violations of the Clean Water Act and ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution and placed on five years of probation.

The 7th Circuit dismissed Hagerman's appeal because he wasn't a party to the probation-violation proceeding and no order naming him was entered, wrote Judge Richard Posner. Wabash's appeal also must be dismissed because they are proceeding pro se with the appeal, which can't be done in a federal court.

Hagerman claimed, as president and "member" of Wabash, he can represent the company in proceedings. But corporations aren't permitted to litigate in federal court unless represented by an attorney who is licensed to practice in that court, and the same applies to LLCs, wrote the judge. Even though the appellate court hadn't ruled on whether an LLC can litigate only if represented by a lawyer, the same rule applies.

The right to conduct business confers privileges, and one of those is the obligation to hire an attorney if you want to sue or defend on behalf of the company, Judge Posner wrote.

"Pro se litigation is a burden on the judiciary ... and the burden is not to be borne when the litigant has chosen to do business in entity form. He must take the burdens with the benefits," he wrote.


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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

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  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

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