Monday, December 8, 2008

USA v. Hagerman

Dec 5: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, Case Nos. 07-3874, 07-3875. The defendants, Wabash Environmental Technologies, LLC, and its president, Hagerman, were convicted of making false statements in violation of the Clean Water Act, and they appeal. The Appeals Court rules, "We affirm the judgments in an unpublished order issued today, and limit this opinion to a threshold issue that happens to be the single point of novelty in the appeals.

The Appeals Court notes that in previous appeals by these parties in a related civil case, it ruled that a limited liability company (which Wabash is), like a corporation, cannot litigate in a Federal court unless it is represented by a lawyer. United States v. Hagerman, 545 F.3d 579, 581-82 (7th Cir. 2008) [
See WIMS 9/30/08].

The Appeals Court explains that in the present case Wabash was represented by a lawyer both in the district court and in Seventh Circuit. The lawyer filed both an opening brief and a reply brief on behalf of the company. But then Hagerman fired the lawyer, who moved the Court for leave to withdraw from the case, which it granted. The Appeals Court says, "The question is whether, even though Wabash’s appeal has been fully briefed, we should dismiss it because Wabash is no longer represented and, not being a natural person, cannot litigate in federal court unless it is represented. We cannot find a case that has addressed this issue."

In affirming the district court decision, the Appeals Court concludes, "We have thought it best. . . to affirm the judgment of the district court in order to lay to rest any doubt about the company’s guilt. But it bears emphasis that at any point in a federal litigation at which a party that is not entitled to proceed pro se finds itself without a lawyer though given a reasonable opportunity to obtain one, the court is empowered to bar the party from further participation in the litigation."

Access the complete opinion (
click here). [Please Note: The 7th circuit has a strange temporary web hyperlink nomenclature system. If the previous link does not work click on this link and enter the case number above (click here).]

No comments: