Feb. 20, 2018 – The Wisconsin Appeals Court has ruled that an estate’s personal representative could not file an appeal notice challenging foreclosure confirmation on because the representative was not an attorney licensed to practice law.
Michael Stacey served as personal representative to the estate of James Stacey, who had signed a promissory note secured by a mortgage before his death.
Ditech Financial LLC held the note and mortgage and filed a complaint against the estate for payment delinquency and sought to foreclose. As personal representative, Ditech served Michael Stacey with the foreclosure summons and complaint.
But no answer was filed and the circuit court entered a default judgment in favor of Ditech. After a redemption period expired, a third party purchased the property at sheriff’s sale. Michael Stacey submitted a letter to the court, objecting to confirmation.
At a subsequent hearing, Michael Stacey appeared as personal representative and filed a notice of appeal after the circuit court granted Ditech’s motion to confirm the sale.
In Ditech Financial LLC v. Estate of James Stacey, 2016AP2371 (Feb. 15, 2017), in a per curiam opinion recommended for publication, the appeals court dismissed the case on jurisdiction, ruling the appeal notice was “ineffective to initiate a valid appeal.”
Stacey had signed the notice of appeal and appellate briefs as “pro se,” but the appeals court noted that pro se means that one personally appears on one’s own behalf.
“Here, Stacey is not appearing for himself in his personal capacity, however, but on behalf of the estate,” the per curiam opinion states, noting a 1997 decision.
In Jadair Inc. v. United States Fire Ins. Co., 209 Wis. 2d 187, 562 N.W.2d 401, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a notice of appeal was fatally defective because a nonlawyer filed it on behalf of a corporation, which is the unauthorized practice of law.
A year later, in 1998, the court of appeals dismissed an appeal filed by a nonlawyer trustee purporting to represent the interests of a trust or the trust beneficiaries.
“Similar reasoning applies in a case where, as here, a personal representative signs and files a notice of appeal on behalf of an estate,” the Stacey court ruled.
“A person not admitted to practice law has no authority to sign a pleading on behalf of another to invoke this court’s jurisdiction.”