The Explainer: Permissibility of Employees Representing the Company in Magistrate’s Court
On occasion, we’re asked whether an employee may represent his/her company in actions pending before the Magistrate’s Courts in South Carolina. Our courts have answered that question in the affirmative.
In State v. Wells, 191 S.C. 468, 5 S.E.2d 181 (1939), the Supreme Court held a lay person could not represent a corporation. However, in In re Unauthorized Practice of Law, 309 S.C. 304, 422 S.E.2d 123 (1992), the Court modified Wells “to allow a business to be represented by a non-lawyer officer, agent or employee, including attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions and those possessing Limited Certificates of Admission pursuant to Rule 405, SCACR, in civil magistrate’s court proceedings.” Id. at 306, 422 S.E.2d at 124 (quoted with approbation by Renaissance Enterprises, Inc. v. Summit Teleservices, Inc., 334 S.C. 649, 651, 515 S.E.2d 257, 258 (1999).
“Such representation may be compensated and shall be undertaken at the business’s option ….” Id. However, “the business assumes the risk of any problems incurred as the result of such representation.” Id. Further, “[t]he magistrate shall require a written authorization from the entity’s president, chairperson, general partner, owner or chief executive officer, or in the case of a person possessing a Limited Certificate, a copy of that Certificate, before permitting such representation.” Id.
The preceding does not constitute either legal advice or the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. Refer questions about this matter to counsel for further explanation.