April 22, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Pro Se Non-Attorney Trustee May Not Represent Trust’s Interest in Court

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Tucker v. Town of Minturn on Monday, October 26, 2015.

Trustees—Pro Se Litigants.

In this appeal, the Supreme Court considered whether a non-attorney trustee of a trust may proceed pro se before the water court. Opposer-appellant appealed the water court’s order ruling that as trustee of a trust, he was not permitted to proceed pro sebecause he was representing the interests of others. He further appealed the water court’s order granting applicant-appellee’s application for a finding of reasonable diligence in connection with a conditional water right. He asserted that the water court erred in granting the application because its supporting verification was deficient. Addressing a matter of first impression in Colorado, the Court concluded that the water court correctly ruled that a non-attorney trustee cannot proceed pro se on behalf of a trust. In light of this determination, the Court declined to address opposer-appellant’s arguments regarding the sufficiency of the verification. Accordingly, the Court affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Debt Services Company Cannot Avoid DMSA Regulation by Associating with Attorneys

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Coffman v. Williamson on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Uniform Debt-Management Services Act—Legal Services Exemption—CRS § 12-14.5-202(10).

The Supreme Court examined the legal services exemption in the Uniform Debt-Management Services Act (UDMSA) to determine whether the original version of the exemption applies to Morgan Drexen, Inc., a company of non-lawyers. The Court also analyzed whether the amended version of the exemption violates the separation of powers doctrine in the Colorado Constitution and the Commerce Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause in the U.S. Constitution because certain out-of-state attorneys may be subject to regulation under the UDMSA.

The Court held that the trial court erred by concluding that Morgan Drexen’s services fall within the scope of the legal services exemption in the original UDMSA, CRS § 12-14.5-202(10)(A). The original exemption encompasses non-lawyer assistants; however, Morgan Drexen’s activity here does not fall within the scope of that exemption because it performs substantive debt-management services without meaningful instruction and supervision by an attorney. The Court also held that the amended UDMSA does not violate the separation of powers doctrine in Article III of the Colorado Constitution or the Commerce and Privileges and Immunities Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded that case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Pro Se Plaintiff Practiced Law by Attempting to Litigate Minor Child’s Claims

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Cikraji v. Snowberger on Thursday, May 7, 2015.

Summary Judgment—Colorado Governmental Immunity Act—Unauthorized Practice of Law.

Plaintiff’s son C.C. was a member of the Durango High School cross-country team, and he agreed to be bound by the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) bylaws. Plaintiff requested permission to remove C.C. from school to go on a trip to Ohio. While in Ohio, C.C. competed in the U.S. Air Force 10k and won. After the trip, defendant Perrin (DHS’s athletic director) informed plaintiff that C.C. would be disciplined for violating the CHSAA Outside Competition Rule because C.C. had not received permission to compete in the 10k. C.C. was suspended from a single cross-country meet.

Plaintiff e-mailed various defendants about the suspension. He also attended a Durango Board of Education meeting, where he argued that the behavior of defendant McMillian (C.C.’s cross-country coach) was bullying.

Plaintiff thereafter filed a pro se complaint alleging that defendants violated his and C.C.’s “rights.” Defendants filed motions to dismiss and plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court denied plaintiff’s requested summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of defendants. In pertinent part, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish that he followed the notice provisions of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA), and therefore, the court was without jurisdiction to consider his claims.

The Court of Appeals noted many deficiencies in plaintiff’s pro se brief, but nonetheless considered his arguments. Plaintiff was the only named plaintiff, but his claims were almost exclusively belonging to his son and, by representing and acting on his son’s behalf, he was engaging in the practice of law. Because plaintiff is not a licensed attorney in Colorado, he cannot represent his son in court proceedings. The Court dismissed those portions of plaintiff’s appeal representing his son with prejudice. To the extent plaintiff’s claims addressed injuries to himself, the Court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of defendants, because plaintiff failed to comply with the jurisdictional notice requirements of the CGIA. Those portions of the appeal plaintiff filed on behalf of C.C were dismissed with prejudice, and the judgment was otherwise affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.