Tuesday, September 12, 2017

corporations - counsel - appeal of MDJ judgment by a non-attorney is a legal nullity

Iannoco v. Fuelin Fine Auto Sales – 59 Northampton 689

Appeal from MDJ money judgment filed by a corporate agent or office is a ineffective, a legal “nullity,” since a corporation can act in court only through counsel.   Petition to strike appeal granted.

In Pennsylvania, “a corporation may appear and be represented in our courts only by an attorney duly admitted to practice” law. Walacavage v. Excell 2000, Inc., 480 A.2d 281, 285 (Pa. Super. 1984). There are only two exceptions to this rule, and neither is applicable here. First, a corporation does not require an attorney if permitted to represent itself by rule or statute. Id. at 284. There are no such rules or statutes applicable here. n. 2

When a corporation files an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas without an attorney, the filing is a nullity, rendering the Court without jurisdiction to hear it and requiring the Court to strike the appeal. See Spirit of the Avenger Ministries v. Commw., 767 A.2d 1130, 1130-31 (Pa. Commw. 2001); see also McCain v. Curione, 527 A.2d 591, 594 (Pa. Commw. 1987) (agreeing with two Courts of Common Pleas that “proceedings commenced by persons unauthorized to practice law are a nullity”).

n. 2

While Pa.R.C.P.M.D.J. No. 207(A)(3) authorizes a corporation to be represented by an officer, employee, or authorized agent of the corporation in magisterial district court proceedings, there is no Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure that authorizes the same in an appeal from such a proceeding or in a civil action before the Court of Common Pleas. Further, while Plaintiff argues that the holding in Harkness v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 920 A.2d 162 (Pa. 2007) carved out an applicable exception to the general rule, the Court disagrees. In that case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a nonattorney representative is permitted to represent a corporate employer in unemployment compensation proceedings before a referee for reasons peculiar to those proceedings. Id. at 168-69. None of the reasons cited by the court in Harkness apply with regard to a civil action before the Court of Common Pleas