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Does a Power of Attorney Let You Act as Someone’s Lawyer?


A power of attorney is a legal document designating someone to act as your agent for certain purposes. For example, if you want to sell your home but cannot be present at the closing, you could sign a limited power of attorney authorizing an agent to sign the closing papers on your behalf. In this context, an agent acting under a power of attorney is your fiduciary.

An agent is commonly referred to as an attorney-in-fact. This is to distinguish the role of the agent from that of an attorney-at-law. An attorney-at-law, or lawyer, is a person who is licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. While many attorneys-in-fact are also attorneys-at-law, they still perform distinct functions. Critically, just because a person is your attorney-in-fact, that does not allow them to practice law and represent you in a legal proceeding.

Judge Rejects Civil Lawsuit Prompted by Unauthorized Practice of Law Arrest

Indeed, practicing law without a license is a criminal offense in Florida. Consider this recent decision from a federal judge in Jacksonville. In Reed v. Williams, a woman charged in 2016 with criminal unauthorized practice of law sued the police detective who arrested her. According to the detective, a prison inmate signed a power of attorney that purportedly authorized the plaintiff to file a court motion on his behalf. After learning of this, the detective arrested the plaintiff.

Florida prosecutors dismissed the case before trial. The plaintiff then filed a federal lawsuit, alleging the defective and the Jacksonville sheriff’s office violated her civil rights. Before the federal court, the defendant maintained there was never a lawful basis for the arrest, since she acted under a power of attorney. The judge explained, however, that a power of attorney is not a license to practice law and could not “authorize a non-lawyer to prepare papers, file petitions and briefs, or generally act as a lawyer on behalf of another.” Since the plaintiff never stated she was a licensed attorney, the detective had a lawful basis for obtaining an arrest warrant, even if the state ultimately decided not to pursue the prosecution. Accordingly, the judge dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

Contact a Florida Power of Attorney Disputes Lawyer Today

It should be noted that many people choose to name their attorney as their agent under a power of attorney. But that does not eliminate the clear legal distinction between an attorney-in-fact and an attorney-at-law. If you want someone to represent you in a courtroom or in any legal matter, you need to hire a person who is licensed to practice law.

And if you are involved in any legal dispute over the validity or exercise of a Florida power of attorney, you should work with a lawyer who specializes in this type of litigation. If you need to speak with a qualified Pompano Beach power of attorney disputes lawyer, call the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today at 954-491-7099 to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our team.



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