Can we represent ourselves at Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can we represent ourselves at Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing?

My church has acquired a CUP to build a church building and some residents are appealing DPP’s decision to grant us the CUP. There will be a hearing on this matter. DPP has a lawyer to defend itself. We have been granted permission to intervene in this hearing. My question is do we need an attorney or do we violate ‘unauthorized practice of law’ statutes if we represent ourselves?

Asked on June 17, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Hawaii


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

In court, a church must have an attorney, because a church is not a person. Only an individual human being can represent him- or herself. Any sort of organization, including charitable or relilgious organizations.
However,a zoning board of appeals is not a court: as long as you are only appearing before the board and not in court, members or representatives of the church can appear before it without an attorney. (If the matter later ends up in court, however, you will absolutely need a lawyer then.)
That said, you put yourself and your church at a considerable disadvantage if the other side has a lawyer and you do not.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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