Townsend v. Gilmer County School Board of Education et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO RETAIN LEGAL COUNSEL. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi on 10/4/21. (mh) (to PS Party via cert mail) (Additional attachment(s) added on 10/4/2021: # 1 Certified Mail Return Receipt) (mh).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
T.A.S., a minor, by and through his parent,
CIVIL ACTION NO.): 1:21-CV-130
GILMER COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD OF
EDUCATION; PATRICIA LOWTHER, in
her individual capacity and in her official
capacity as Superintendent of Gilmer County
Schools; and DOUG COTTRILL, DAVID
RAMEZAN, TAMMY HUFFMAN, BRIAN
KENNEDY, and THOMAS MINNEY, in
their individual capacities and in their
capacities as members of the Gilmer County
Schools Board of Education,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO RETAIN LEGAL COUNSEL
This matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to an Order
entered by the presiding District Judge, Hon. Irene M. Keeley, dated October 4, 2021. [ECF No.
Plaintiff, a minor, brought this action by and through his parent, Connie Townsend.
However, as a party, Plaintiff is not represented by legal counsel. Rather, Plaintiff’s parent, who
is not an attorney1, intends to proceed pro se on Plaintiff’s behalf. However, in such a context, the
Fourth Circuit has held that parents who are not attorneys may not litigate such claims.
We therefore join the vast majority of our sister circuits in holding that non-attorney
parents generally may not litigate the claims of their minor children in federal
court. See Shepherd v. Wellman, 313 F.3d 963, 970 (6th Cir.2002); Navin v. Park
Ridge Sch. Dist., 270 F.3d 1147, 1149 (7th Cir.2001); Devine v. Indian River
County Sch. Bd., 121 F.3d 576, 581 (11th Cir.1997); Johns v. County of San
Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 877 (9th Cir.1997); Osei–Afriyie v. Med. Coll., 937 F.2d 876,
882–83 (3d Cir.1991); Cheung, 906 F.2d at 61; Meeker v. Kercher, 782 F.2d 153,
154 (10th Cir.1986).
Myers v. Loudoun Cty. Pub. Sch., 418 F.3d 395, 401 (4th Cir. 2005). See also M.D. v. Sch. Bd. of
City of Richmond, 560 F. App'x 199, 202 (4th Cir. 2014) (“To ensure minors’ rights are vigorously
and competently protected, we have squarely held that non-attorney parents are barred from
representing their children in federal court.”)
Therefore, Plaintiff must retain legal counsel who is a properly licensed attorney, admitted
to practice before this Court, who enters an appearance on Plaintiff’s behalf. Plaintiff’s failure to
do so may result in dismissal of this matter without prejudice. Plaintiff’s failure to comply with
this Order will result in the undersigned recommending to the presiding District Judge that
Plaintiff’s claims be dismissed and the matter stricken from the Court’s docket. Accordingly, it is
hereby ORDERED that Plaintiff’s legal counsel must enter an appearance in this matter within
thirty (30) days of Plaintiff’s receipt of this Order.
It is all so ORDERED.
The Clerk is directed to send a copy of this Order to all pro se parties by certified mail,
return receipt requested, to their last known addresses as shown on the docket, and to counsel of
record by electronic means.
A search of the West Virginia State Bar directory and a search of the list of attorneys admitted and
qualified to practice in this Court did not reveal Plaintiff’s parent here to be an attorney, let alone an attorney
permitted to appear in this Court.
DATED: October 4, 2021.
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