Monday, July 25, 2005

S.C. Supreme Court holds that preparation of notice of appeal by administratrix constitutes practice of law

In Brown v. Coe, the Supreme Court considered whether it is proper to dismiss an appeal on the ground that the notice of appeal was served and filed by a non-lawyer in violation of S.C. Code Ann. 40-5-310 (2001). This was the first time the Court has specifically addressed whether a non-lawyer executor or personal representative can represent an estate in matters such as an appeal. The court held that the administratrix did engage in the unauthorized practice of law:

In the case at hand, the filing of a notice of appeal on behalf of the estate and preparation of briefs that will be required to further perfect this appeal clearly constitutes the practice of law as defined by this Court. Section 40-5-310 prohibits appellant who, while the administratrix of the estate, is not a lawyer, from taking such actions on behalf of the estate because the estate is a separate legal entity with interests other than Ms. Brown's alone. Moreover, the further reasoning employed by this Court in previous opinions, that such a prohibition is necessary to protect the public from representation by those unlearned in the law, also applies to the situation at hand, as noted by many of the courts cited above.

The court gave the appellant 30 days to hire a lawyer or face dismissal of the appeal.

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