Unauthorized Practice of Law

2016--- Rudolph v. Newport News Dept. of Human Servs., 67 Va. App. 140
Emergency removal and termination petitions completed, signed, and filed by non-attorney employees of the DHS did not constitute the unauthorized practice of law that would otherwise nullify the petitions. Although Virginia courts have generally held that pleadings signed by a person acting in a representative capacity for a party to the action are a nullity unless the representative is licensed to practice law, the statutory history of Code of Virginia § 16.1- 260 (Juvenile court intake; petitions, and investigation); § 8.01-271.1 (Signing of pleadings, motions, and other papers); § 54.1-3900 (Practice of law); and § 63.2-332 (Powers and duties of local DSS directors) manifest the legislature’s express intent that, in juvenile court proceedings, non-attorney employees of local departments of social services may complete, sign, and file form petitions approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia.