Knowledge Center

Monday, April 28, 2014

Illinois Appellate Court Holds Entities Must Be Represented By an Attorney At Administrative Hearings

A recent decision by the Illinois Appellate Court held that corporations may not represent themselves at administrative hearings, but instead must be represented by an attorney. In Stone Street Partners, LLC v. The City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings, Case No. 12 M1 450026, Stone Street Partners, LLC sought, among other things, a declaration that the City of Chicago's 11-year-old judgment against it for fines based on building code violations was void. The circuit court dismissed Stone Street's complaint, but the Appellate Court, in its opinion on March 31, 2014, partially reversed that dismissal finding that Stone Street's allegations supported a valid claim that the City of Chicago's judgment against Stone Street was void because (1) the City failed to properly serve Stone Street with the complaint in the underlying case; and (2) Stone Street was represented by a non-attorney in the underlying case. The court found that the representation of a corporation (or, apparently, a limited liability company since Stone Street was a limited liability company) at an administrative hearing constitutes the practice of law. Because the Illinois Supreme Court regulates the practice of law in this state, the court determined that the City of Chicago's Rules and Regulations which allow a party, including a corporation or limited liability company, to represent itself in an administrative hearing usurp the authority of the Illinois Supreme Court to administer the practice of law and are of "highly doubtful validity." The court went on to hold that "the representation of corporations at administrative hearings . . . must be made by a licensed attorney at law." Id., at ¶ 16. The full opinion is available HERE.

Following the opinion, the City of Chicago is requiring that corporations and limited liability companies be represented by an attorney at administrative hearings.

To discuss specific questions or recommendations please contact Kristin Dunlap at (312) 606-3204 or Alyssa Scott at (312) 242-3302.

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