Monday, March 21, 2016

How can an out-of-state person defend himself in a Utah court?

Utah Law on Court Appearances Generally

            In order to participate in the legal process, a party must attend the hearings in front of the court.  A party may choose to either attend personally or to have an attorney attend on behalf on that person.  An entity that is not a natural person, such as a limited liability company, a corporation, or a real estate trust, is unable to attend personally and must have an attorney appear on its behalf (except in very narrow circumstances).  

Having a Friend or Family Member Appear

           Out of state parties sometimes request that friends or family appear on their behalf.  Appearing on behalf of another person in court is generally considered to be the practice of law.   With limited exceptions,  a non-attorney “individual may not practice law or assume to act or hold himself or herself out to the public as an individual qualified to practice law[.]”  Utah Code §78A-9-103(1).  The appearance by a family or friend on a party’s behalf could very likely be treated as a non-appearance by the party.   Also, having a non-attorney appear on a party’s behalf could theoretically get the appearing person in a legal predicament for practicing law without a license (though I have never personally seen the appearing person receive more than a stern rebuke).

Appearing through Electronic Means

       "In the judge's discretion, any hearing may be conducted using telephone or video conferencing.”  Rules of Judicial Administration 4-106(1).  Through a motion, an out-of-state party may petition the court to appear via telephone or video conference.  Some judges are more open to this method of appearance than others.  The court’s discretion should factor in that the rules should “be liberally construed and applied to achieve the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” Utah Rules of Civil Procedure 1.  Allowing the a party to appear electronically weighs the difficulties and costs imposed on out-of-state parties with the disruption to the proceedings caused by one party not being physically present.  Judges have broad discretion on how to conduct hearings and trials, so whether or not a party would be allowed to appear by electronic means would largely depend upon the judge's preferences.


            For an out-of-state party, having an attorney appear on its behalf can avoid most issues.  If hiring an attorney is not possible, the party may petition the court to appear via electronic means, but the party cannot assume that the court will grant that request.  An out-of-state party may be required to appear in person.

For more specific information about this particular subject, please call my office at 801-691-7770 for a free consultation or see the following web pages:

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Disclaimer: This blog is for general information and educational purposes only.  Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice for any particular situation.  The statements in this blog may be generalized, contain speculation, be based on opinion, or be made inaccurate by updates or clarifications to the law.  No attorney-client relationship is created by virtue of this blog.  To receive competent legal advice for your situation, you should seek competent, licensed legal counsel in the appropriate jurisdiction and practice area.

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