The Minnesota Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of the unauthorized practice of law. The question it considered is whether a complaint signed by a lawyer who was unlicensed is a nullity or whether the defect can be cured. This is an important question and it has been considered by other states.
The highlights of the court’s reasoning are as follows:
The Minnesota rules of court are clear on the need for pleadings such as a complaint to be signed by an attorney licensed in Minnesota. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 11.01; Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 5. A complaint lacking the signature of a Minnesota attorney is defective. The rules also require a summons to be “subscribed by the plaintiff or by the plaintiff’s attorney.” Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.01. In keeping with statutory requirements that attorneys not licensed in Minnesota may not practice in the state, see Minn. Stat. § 481.02, we conclude that the Rule 4.01 imperative that a summons be subscribed by the plaintiff “or by the plaintiff’s attorney” requires that a summons not subscribed by the plaintiff be subscribed by an attorney licensed to practice in Minnesota. Accordingly, a summons is defective if it is not subscribed by either the plaintiff or an attorney licensed to practice law in Minnesota. Here, both the summons and the complaint were defective.