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Mental Disability Law Clinic v. Carpinello

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


April 3, 2007

MENTAL DISABILITY LAW CLINIC, TOURO COLLEGE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SHARON CARPINELLO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Orenstein, Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Before me is a letter-motion dated April 2, 2007, signed by a law student intern, that for the second time in this case seeks an order compelling the disclosure of certain information before the parties' initial discovery conference. Docket Entry ("DE") 13. After the first such letter-motion was filed, DE 9, I resolved it with the following endorsement: "It is not clear whether the law student intern who authored this letter currently represents a party in this action. Consequently, the application is denied without prejudice to renewal by a party with standing, in compliance with Rule 26(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule III.A.1 of my Individual Practice Rules." Order dated March 26, 2007. As set forth below, the current motion suffers from the same defect as its predecessor, and I therefore deny it.

Contrary to the student author's assertion that the plaintiff clinic is representing itself, DE 13 at 1, a corporate entity cannot proceed pro se; it must appear through counsel. Jones v. Niagara Frontier Transp. Auth., 722 F.2d 20 (2d Cir. 1983); see also Powerserve Int'l, Inc. v. Lavi, 239 F.3d 508, 514 (2d Cir. 2001) ("a corporation may not be represented by a person who is not an attorney"). The record indicates that the plaintiff entities in this case have done so, and that each plaintiff is in fact represented by two attorneys of record: William M. Brooks and Eric Broutman. See DE 1-2 (civil cover sheet).

It may well be the case that the author of the pending motion is in fact working with counsel of record, and that the latter is attempting to achieve the salutary goal of giving a law student an opportunity not only to perform substantive legal work with appropriate supervision, but also to receive appropriate credit for doing so. In that regard, I note that the student's signature on the instant application is followed by a notation that appears to read "by WMB" (from which I infer that Mr. Brooks actually signed the student's name, with her consent) and that, according to the electronic docketing records, the application was submitted electronically by Mr. Brooks. See DE 13. I have no objection to such efforts to involve students in litigation, but they must be done in conformity with applicable rules. Among those rules is the following:

Every pleading, written motion, and other paper shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's individual name, or, if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall be signed by the party.... An unsigned paper shall be stricken unless omission of the signature is corrected promptly after being called to the attention of the attorney of the party.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a).

By declining to entertain this second application -- or any application made by a person other than counsel of record who purports to act on behalf of a litigant -- I ensure that the litigant's interests are not prejudiced either by the attribution to it of a position it does not actually wish to take, or by the advocacy of a position it does endorse by an advocate other than the one of its choosing. See generally Becker v. Montgomery, 532 U.S. 757, 762-65 (2001). If either plaintiff seeks relief, either of its attorneys of record -- and only its attorneys of record -- may make an appropriate application.

For the reasons set forth above, I again deny the application for relief on behalf of the plaintiff clinic submitted by a person who is not that party's counsel of record, and I again do so without prejudice to renewal in conformity with Rule 26(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule III.A.1 of my Individual Practice Rules.*fn1

SO ORDERED.

JAMES ORENSTEIN U.S. Magistrate Judge


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