Shipe v. Hunter, Record No. 091738.

Citation280 Va. 480, 699 S.E.2d 519
Case DateSeptember 16, 2010
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

280 Va. 480
699 S.E.2d 519

Michael J. HUNTER.

Record No. 091738.

Supreme Court of Virginia.

Sept. 16, 2010.

699 S.E.2d 520
Leo R. Andrews, Jr., Arlington, for appellant.

C. Mark Whittington (Davis & Associates, on brief), for appellee.



In Aguilera v. Christian, 280 Va. 486, 699 S.E.2d 517 (2010) (this day decided), we considered the question whether a pro se litigant may validly authorize a person not licensed to practice law in Virginia to sign a pleading on the pro se litigant's behalf. In this appeal, we consider the closely related question whether a Virginia lawyer may validly authorize a lawyer licensed elsewhere, but not in Virginia, to sign the Virginia lawyer's name to a pleading.

Facts and Proceedings

On May 16, 2008, a complaint was filed in the circuit court on behalf of Harry Shipe (the plaintiff) against Michael J. Hunter to recover damages arising out of an automobile collision that occurred on May 28, 2004.1 The complaint bore the typed signature “Harry Shipe By Counsel.” That entry was followed by the written signature “Leo R. Andrews, Jr.” followed by the initials “JW” in parentheses. Mr. Andrews was named as “Counsel for Plaintiff.” Below that signature appears the name of Jay S. Weiss, named as “Co-Counsel for Plaintiff.” That signature line contains only Mr. Weiss' initials.

It is undisputed that Mr. Andrews is an active member of the Virginia State Bar in good standing, licensed to practice law in Virginia and that Mr. Weiss is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia in good standing, but is not licensed to practice law in Virginia. Defense counsel filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that only Mr. Weiss had actually signed the complaint and that it thus lacked the signature of either a pro se plaintiff or an attorney representing him who was licensed to practice law in Virginia, as required by Code § 8.01-271.1 and Rule 1A:4. At a hearing on the motion, Mr. Andrews represented to the court that he had not personally signed the complaint but that he had requested and authorized Mr. Weiss to sign his, Mr. Andrews', name. The circuit court held that the complaint was a nullity, granted the motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case with prejudice. We awarded the plaintiff an appeal.


Code § 8.01-271.1 provides, with two exceptions not relevant here, that “every pleading, written motion, and other paper of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in his individual name” and that a party not represented by an attorney and proceeding pro se “shall sign his pleading, motion, or other paper and state his address.” Rule 1:4(c) provides: “Counsel or an unrepresented party who files a pleading shall sign it and state his address.” Rule 1A:4(2) provides that no out-of-state lawyer may appear pro hac vice in any Virginia tribunal except in association with an active member of the...

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24 cases
  • McGinnis v. Commonwealth, Record No. 180055
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • December 13, 2018 sign the motion.Addressing the procedural issue in its opinion, the Court of Appeals relied upon our decision in Shipe v. Hunter , 280 Va. 480, 484, 699 S.E.2d 519 (2010), for the principle that a represented party generally is not permitted to file pro se pleadings. The Court of Appeals......
  • Moore v. State, 2016–CA–01032–COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • December 5, 2017 Oklahoma attorneys in Arkansas constituted unauthorized practice of law, and the complaint was "a nullity." See also Shipe v. Hunter , 280 Va. 480, 699 S.E.2d 519, 520 (2010) ("[A] pleading, signed only by a person acting in a representative capacity who is not licensed to practice law i......
  • Reed v. Commonwealth of Va.., Record No. 091803.
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • March 4, 2011
    ...with proper authority to do so is a nullity. See Aguilera v. Christian, 280 Va. 486, 489, 699 S.E.2d 517, 519 (2010); Shipe v. Hunter, 280 Va. 480, 484–85, 699 S.E.2d 519, 521–22 (2010); Kone v. Wilson, 272 Va. 59, 62–63, 630 S.E.2d 744, 745–46 (2006); Nerri v. Adu–Gyamfi, 270 Va. 28, 31, 6......
  • McGinnis v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0117-17-3
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • December 12, 2017 individual is represented by counsel and the other where an individual chooses to represent himself pro se. See Shipe v. Hunter, 280 Va. 480, 484, 699 S.E.2d 519, 521 (2010) ("For the protection of the public from harassment by frivolous, oppressive, fraudulent or purely malicious litiga......
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