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Tax judge declines to require attorneys represent LLCs in court

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The Indiana Department of State Revenue asked the Indiana Tax Court to create a rule requiring limited liability companies be represented by attorneys in court, similar to a rule pertaining to corporations, but Judge Martha Wentworth declined to “invent such a rule where one does not currently exist.”

Wireless Advocates LLC appealed the revenue department’s final determination denying its claim for refund of adjusted gross income tax for the 2006 tax year. Thomas Gaisser, a member, vice president and chief financial officer of the company, signed the verified petition for judicial review and notice of appearance filed with the clerk’s office. An attorney appeared on behalf of Wireless Advocates after the department filed its motion to dismiss.

The revenue department wants Wentworth to dismiss the case because Wireless Advocates as a company couldn’t initiate the appeal itself but needed an attorney to file it. Gaisser, as a non-attorney, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by signing and filing the verified petition and notice of appearance, the government argued.

Wentworth declined to create a rule for LLCs similar to that of corporations. She noted that she didn’t need to determine whether Indiana Small Claims Rule 8(C)(3) applied – which requires LLCs be represented by attorneys in matters of more than $1,500 – since neither attorney mentioned the rule. She also pointed out in the footnote that UPL determinations are for the Indiana Supreme Court to decide.

Corporations proceeding pro se are given an opportunity to retain counsel when its opponent contests the party proceeding pro se. A corporation must refuse before dismissing the action, Wentworth noted.

She rejected the government’s argument that Gaisser – over the advisement of the clerk’s office and a certified public accountant to consult with an attorney before appealing – attempted “to game the system and get additional time to hire an attorney.”

Wentworth pointed out Wireless Advocates hired an attorney just nine days after the department filed its motion to dismiss, and its petition reveals nothing to defeat an equitable result. The revenue department will have 30 days to file its answer to the complaint.  

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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