AGO 88-4.

Case Date:September 01, 1988
Colorado Attorney General Opinions 1988. AGO 88-4. September 1, 1988Department of Law Attorney General Opinion FORMAL OPINION of DUANE WOODARD Attorney General Opinion No. 88-4 AG Alpha No. LO AA AGAQT Timothy W. Schultz Executive Director Department of Local Affairs 1313 Sherman Street, Room 518 Denver, CO 80203 RE: Representation of taxpayers before the Board of Assessment Appeals.Dear Mr. Schultz: This letter is in reply to your request for an Attorney General's opinion on who can legally represent taxpayers in proceedings before the Board of Assessment Appeals (hereinafter, "the Board"). QUESTION PRESENTED AND CONCLUSION Your request for an Attorney General's opinion presents two questions: Can a nonattorney represent an individual taxpayer before the Board pursuant to section 39-2-127(4), C.R.S. (1982), as amended by 1988 H.B. 1044? No. Can a nonattorney represent a corporation before the Board pursuant to section 13-1-127, C.R.S. (1987)? No. ANALYSIS On their face, section 39-2-127, C.R.S. (1982), (as amended by 1988 H.B. 1044),(fn1) and section 13-1-127, C.R.S. (1987),(fn2) permit nonlawyers to represent individuals and (in some circumstances) corporations before the Board. "The General Assembly," however, "does not have the constitutional authority to determine who can practice law before administrative agencies." Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee v. Employers Unity, Inc., 716 P.2d 460, 463 (Colo. 1986). Under our tripartite system of government, see Colo. Const. art. III, the state supreme court has the exclusive authority to define and regulate the practice of law in Colorado. Id. See also, e.g., Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee v. Prog., 86 SA 400 (Colo. June 30, 1988); Denver Bar Ass'n v. Public Utilities Comm'n., 154 Colo. 273, 391 P.2d 467 (1964). The Supreme Court, in attempting to define the practice of law, has noted that: generally, one who acts in a representative capacity in protecting, enforcing, or defending the legal rights and duties of another and in counselling, advising and assisting them in connection with these rights and duties is engaged in the practice of law. Denver Bar Ass'n, supra, 391 P.2d at 471. Accord: Prog, supra.(fn3) The Supreme Court has granted permission for the unlicensed practice of law sparingly and only in very limited circumstances, i.e., where there are few or no disputed legal principles involved and the monetary amount in issue is too small to justify hiring an attorney. E.g., Denver Bar Ass'n, supra, 391 P.2d at 472. In one such case, the court spelled out the rationale for permitting laymen to otherwise engage in the practice of law before an administrative agency: Lay representation in this field [i.e., unemployment hearings] has been accepted by the public for 50 years. It poses no threat to the People of the State of Colorado. Nor is it interfering with the proper administration of justice. No evidence was presented to the contrary. In general, the amounts involved do not warrant the employment of an attorney. The average weekly benefit in...

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