The judge is right. The defendant also needs an attorney to file a response that is not subject to a motion to strike. I hope you will not be charging your client for worthless work.
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Yes, a corporation can only appear in court through an attorney.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
A corporation may only appear in court through a licensed attorney.
In the eyes of the law a corporation has all the powers of a natural person in the carrying out of its business. This means the corporation may avail itself of the state's laws and may bring a lawsuit. However, under long-settled common law, a corporation cannot represent itself before courts of record without a lawyer, and it cannot represent itself through an officer, director or any other person who is not also a licensed lawyer. See the case of Caressa Camille, Inc. v. Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Bd. (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1094, 1101–1103 [121 Cal. Rptr. 2d 758. The same rule applies in Federal Court as well.
The logic behind this rule is that a corporation is an artificial entity created by law and can only act in its affairs through its natural persons, agents and/or representatives. Obviously, any person who would appear in court to act on behalf of the corporation, if not a licensed attorney, would then be practicing law without a license. See the case of Merco Constr. Engineers, Inc. v. Municipal Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 724, 730 [147 Cal. Rptr. 631, 581 P.2d 636.
Practicing law without a license is a big problem, and I am not aware of any exceptions.
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