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When Can a Company Represent Itself (Pro Se) In Colorado Courts?

We often see a company (corporations or limited liability companies (LLC)) attempt to proceed pro se (represent itself) in lawsuits in the Colorado courts.  Almost every time, the judge will order the company to obtain counsel or face a default judgment.  Only under very specific circumstances may an LLC or corporation appear pro se in a Colorado lawsuit.  Generally, a corporation or LLC cannot appear pro se (unrepresented) in Colorado courts.

Colorado State Courts: Generally NO.

Absent statutory exceptions, a corporation or LLC cannot appear in a Colorado court unless it is represented by counsel.  SeeWeston v. T & T, LLC, App.2011, 271 P.3d 552.

A closely held entity (no more than three owners) may be represented before any Colorado court of record or any administrative agency by an officer of such closely held entity if the amount at issue in the controversy or matter before the Colorado court or agency does not exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000), exclusive of costs, interest, or statutory penalties.  C.R.S. § 13-1-127.  Even where a closely held company considers representing itself, the owners should consult an attorney relating to the law, procedures, and realities of moving forward with their case without an attorney.

Colorado Small Claims Court: Maybe.

A Corporation or LLC may be permitted to represent itself in the lawsuit.
“…in the small claims court, an individual shall represent himself or herself; a partnership shall be represented by an active general partner or an authorized full-time employee; a union shall be represented by an authorized active union member or full-time employee; a for-profit corporation shall be represented by one of its full-time officers or full-time employees; an association shall be represented by one of its active members or by a full-time employee of the association; and any other kind of organization or entity shall be represented by one of its active members or full-time employees or, in the case of a nonprofit corporation, a duly elected nonattorney officer or an employee.”

Colorado Federal Court (United States District Court for the District of Colorado): NO.

A Corporation or LLC cannot represent itself in the lawsuit.

In Federal Courts, the Local Rule 5(b) states: An “entity may not appear without counsel admitted to the bar of this court.” The relevant case law also states that a corporation or LLC must be represented by a lawyer in court.  “As a general matter, a corporation or other business entity can only appear in court through an attorney and not through a non-attorney corporate officer appearing pro se.” Harrison v. Wahatoyas, L.L.C., 253 F.3d 552, 556 (10th Cir. 2001) (citing Flora Constr. Co. v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co., 307 F.2d 413, 414 (10th Cir. 1962)). See Tal v. Hogan, 453 F.3d 1244, 1254 & n.8 (10th Cir. 2006) (“It has been our long-standing rule that a corporation must be represented by an attorney to appear in federal court.”) (citing cases in footnote); Martin v. Directors of Guild of Am., 2006 WL 1351650, at *2 (D. Colo. May 16, 2006) (“It is well established that LLCs must be represented by counsel in order to proceed before this court.”) (citing Roscoe v. United States, 134 F. App’x 226 (10th Cir. Apr. 29, 2005) (LLC cannot proceed pro se)).

If you are a corporation or LLC seeking representation in a Colorado lawsuit and need Colorado local counsel, our Colorado litigation lawyers will help you. Contact our Colorado civil litigation attorneys today.  LaszloLaw is a Colorado law firm that provides counsel on a wide range of legal needs including litigation. Contact our Boulder lawyers online or at 303-926-0410 to discuss your Colorado local counsel and Colorado pro hac vice needs.

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