Joyce Merritt won in the Kentucky Supreme Court

“One of the basic principles, one of the glories, of the American system of justice is that the courthouse door is open to everyone—the humblest citizen, the indigent, the convicted felon, the illegal alien.” Persels & Associates, LLC v. Capital One Bank, et.al., 2016 WL 670180 at 1, citing N.A.A.C.P. v. Meese, 615 F.Supp. 200, 205–06 (D.D.C.1985).

Joyce Merritt won in the Kentucky Supreme Court in a reported decision issued on February 18, 2016. In the case of Persels & Associates, LLC v. Capital One Bank, et.al., 2016 WL 670180, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that limited scope legal representation agreements are authorized that limit the scope of the legal assistant or the representation to discrete legal tasks, so long as they are reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent. The Court overturned the imposition of sanctions against the attorneys for their failure to sign pleadings prepared by them.
In the case, two individuals retained Persels & Associates (Persels) to provide them with limited legal representation in debt collection cases. The limited representation agreements provided that neither lawyer was required to sign pleadings, enter an appearance or attend court proceedings. The lawyers drafted pleadings for their respective client signatures and indicated their assistance in preparation of the pleadings on the face of those documents. The individual defendants, after consultation with counsel, reviewed and signed the pleadings in their own name and appeared in court on their own behalf. The circuit court ordered the lawyers to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for their failure to enter an appearance and sign pleadings. Persels intervened as a third party. The circuit court held the two attorneys had violated Ky. R. Civ. P. 11 and fined each $1. The court of appeals affirmed. 

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that limited-scope legal representation counsel is not required to sign the documents prepared as part of the limited representation and, therefore, Rule 11 does not apply. The Court noted there is not a strict rule requiring drafting attorneys to sign the documents they prepare pursuant to limited-representation agreements; rather, an attorney involved in the preparation of initial pleadings, including complaint, answer, cross-claims, and counter-claims, must indicate that the document has been prepared by or with the assistance of counsel by providing “Prepared By or With Assistance of Counsel” on the document concerned. Further, disclosures of limited representation do not require the attorney who assisted with the pleading to appear in court for all purposes.
This decision allows EMSW to tailor an agreement to represent you in the way that is most cost-effective for you.