Corporate Pro Se Representation
In North Carolina, a person has a right to represent
themselves in court, even if they are not a lawyer. However, even though a
corporation or LLC is considered a “person” for many legal issues, they are not
capable of representing themselves in court. Even a small corporation that is
owned 100% by one individual, that person cannot represent the corporation in
court, either as a plaintiff or defendant. The corporation must retain an
attorney for any litigation or other proceeding. This rule is the same in North
Carolina courts as well as the Federal courts.
There are a few exceptions to the general rule. First, there
is some support in the decisions of the appeals courts in North Carolina that a
filing from a corporate officer may be sufficient to avoid a default for
failure to answer. Second, a corporation may appear through a non-lawyer
representative in small claims court. If your small corporation is suing or
being sued in small claims court, I recommend you bring a copy of this case. Most of the magistrate judges are aware of this exception, but I have come across
some who were not familiar with it and had to be shown why they were able to
hear the arguments of a non-lawyer corporate representative.
In most cases, the attorney representing the corporation can
be in-house counsel. North Carolina Gen. Stat. 84-5 allows a salaried employee
of the corporation who is also an attorney to represent the corporation. When
however, the corporation is acting in a fiduciary capacity, the statute
provides that it must hire outside independent counsel.
–Bradley A. Coxe
is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC with Hodges & Coxe PC who
specializes in Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Homeowner’s Associations,
Contract and Real Estate disputes and all forms of Civil Litigation.
Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.