can you be pro se in appellate court

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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can you be pro se in appellate court

I’m a Trustee for a trust in NJ, it was in litigation my attorney asked to the court to quit because I owed his fees. The judge said I needed to find another attorney and said because I am a trustee of the trust I couldn’t proceed pro se. I want to appeal the settlement and I applied for pro se. So, can I continue pro se in appeals court or do I have to listen to the lower court and find an attorney. If I proceeded any way can I get into trouble?

Asked on September 21, 2017 under Estate Planning, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You cannot proceed pro se because you are not representing yourself. A non-lawyer may only represent him/herself regardless of what court it is--trial court, family court, probate court, appellate court, state Supreme Court, etc. The trust is not you, however: even though you are the trustee and have authority over the trust, because you and the trust are still distinct entities, you must hire an attorney to represent the trust, the same way the sole member or shareholder of an LLC or corporation has hire a lawyer to represent his/her business, since the LLC or corporation is a separate and distinct legal entity from the owner.
You simply will not be allowed to represent the trust, unless you are also an attorney.

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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