Power of Attorney - I Have One, So I am One - Right?

I’m not sure from Bricker’s posts that “tribunal” includes an administrative law court, which is not, of course, a “court” but part of the administrative agency. The Social Security Admn allows non-lawyers to represent claimants. In fact, there are firms advertising themselves as disability specialists, or the like, who do nothing but represent claimants in Social Security disability cases. None of them is a lawyer. I’m not sure if they are allowed to file an action in the District Court if they are unsuccessful in the administrative process. Federal law may control here, and supersede any state law.

In the jurisdiction where I formerly practiced as an administrative law judge (Montana), a non-lawyer could not represent another at a state administrative proceeding, as doing so was held to constitute the practice of law (which by law must only be done by lawyers admitted to the bar).

My question was whether if you are an attorney in fact (as opposed to at law) pursuant to a POA, you can then represent the interests of another in court under the theory that the POA means you’re proceeding in a fashion akin to proceeding pro se. BRICKER’s post seems to indicate this is not okay, which would be my guess as well, though frankly I’m too lazy to go look it up.

But as a general rule any action constituting the practice of law may not be done by anyone except a lawyer (with the exception of a person representing himself – ie, proceeding pro se). This inquiry turns on the type of action undertaken (ie, the representation of another before a judicial or quasi-judicial tribunal). The forum of the proceeding (administrative or in the courts) is irrelevant. In other words, the question is “what are you trying to do?”, not “where are you trying to do it?”

This actually came up a lot in my old job with Freemen (or people claiming to be) asserting they had the right to represent each other. No, you don’t. You can represent yourself, but if you want someone else to represent you in an judicial (court) or quasi-judicial (administrative) proceeding, that “someone else” must be a lawyer. The answer to PIKACHU’s question is that the Constitutional right to “counsel” does not prohibit the states from defining the word “counsel” in a particular way – i.e, as someone meeting certain educational and licensing requirements. You have the Constitutional right to “counsel,” but “counsel” means “lawyers.” You have no Constitutional right to be represented by a non-lawyer.

OK, but that doesn’t prohibit a non-lawyer from representing another in a federal administrative proceeding. I’m not going to look up the citation, but I know for a fact that it is permitted, at least in Social Security cases, and since it is probably governed not by the Social Security Act, but by the Federal Administrative Act, that probably pertains to all federl administrative proceedings.

In my jurisdiction (Saskatchewan), “agents” can appear on summary conviction matters in Provincial Court, but it’s very much at the discretion of the judge, based on the nature of the case, its complexities, and the capabilities of the agent. There’s occasionally an agent appearing at a trial, but it’s rare - normally it’s just someone appearing to seek an adjournment, etc. because one of the parties isn’t in town. Agents (e.g. accountants) can also appear on simple bankruptcy matters and before administrative tribunals, but again at the discretion of the presiding officer.

Jodi - you had freemen appearing in front of you? My heart goes out to you. They’ve been spreading north and I’ve had some experience with them … [sigh]

I think the general idea of law school is that you’d learn about the law and legal process and stuff, y’know, might be handy.