Unpublished Disposition, 935 F.2d 274 (9th Cir. 1991)

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 935 F.2d 274 (9th Cir. 1991)

Robert HUDNALL, Trustee, Sassoon Family Preservation Trust,Plaintiff-Appellant,v.VIDAL SASSOON, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 90-56022.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Submitted May 29, 1991.* Decided June 4, 1991.

Before HUG, KOZINSKI and LEAVY, Circuit Judges.


Robert Hudnall, trustee for the Sassoon Family Preservation Trust (the "Trust"), appeals pro se the district court's dismissal of his action against Vidal Sassoon, Inc. The district court dismissed the action because Hudnall, a non-attorney, could not represent the Trust. Hudnall contends that, as trustee for the Trust, he is the real party in interest and could properly represent the Trust pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1654. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm.

Although a non-attorney may represent himself in a lawsuit, he has no authority to appear as an attorney for others. C.E. Pope Equity Trust v. United States, 818 F.2d 696, 697 (9th Cir. 1987). Unincorporated associations, including trustees, like corporations, must appear in court through an attorney. See id.; Church of the New Testament v. United States, 783 F.2d 771, 773 (9th Cir. 1986). A layperson can represent a trust only in extraordinary circumstances. Id.

Here, the district court correctly found that Hudnall, a non-attorney, had no authority to represent the Trust. See C.E. Pope Equity Trust, 818 F.2d at 697. Hudnall's reliance on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(a) for the contrary is misplaced. Rule 17(a) authorizes a trustee to sue on behalf of the trust without joining the actual beneficiaries of the trust. Id. at 698. The rule, however, "does not warrant the conclusion that a nonlawyer [trustee] can maintain such a suit in propria persona." Id.1  Moreover, because no evidence in the record indicates that Hudnall is a beneficial owner of the claims being asserted by the Trust, Hudnall "cannot be viewed as a 'party' conducting his 'own case personally' within the meaning of [28 U.S.C.] section 1654." Id. at 697-98 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1654) (emphasis original). Thus, the district court correctly dismissed the action because the Trust was not properly represented by counsel. See id.; Church of the New Testament, 783 F.2d at 773.



The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a); 9th Cir.R. 34-4


This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by 9th Cir.R. 36-3


Likewise, Hudnall's reliance on Navarro Sav. Ass'n v. Lee, 446 U.S. 458 (1980), also is misplaced. The Supreme Court in Navarro held that trustees who had legal title to the trust's assets, managed those assets, and controlled trust litigation were the real parties in interest for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. See id. at 462. Navarro, however, does not stand for the proposition that such non-attorney trustees could maintain trust actions pro se