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American Express Centurion Bank v. Corum

Supreme Court of North Dakota

November 16, 2017

American Express Centurion Bank, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Karen Corum, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Bottineau County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Anthony S. Benson, Judge.

          Eeva M. Wendorf, Fargo, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

          Karen Corum, Willow City, N.D., defendant and appellant; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Karen Corum appeals from summary judgments entered in two collection actions commenced by American Express Centurion Bank. We conclude the district court's summary judgments were proper as a matter of law and the district court did not err by denying Corum's request to allow her husband to be her spokesperson in court. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] American Express Centurion Bank commenced two collection actions against Karen Corum for two unpaid credit card accounts. In both cases, American Express moved for summary judgment. Corum contested the motions and filed a motion to dismiss in both cases. A hearing was held on January 6, 2017. The district court indicated in its order that Corum requested her husband be allowed to speak on her behalf, and that request was denied. The court granted summary judgment in favor of American Express in both matters in March 2017.

         [¶ 3] Corum appealed from the district court's summary judgment in both matters. Corum argues the court denied her right to counsel by not allowing her husband, a non-party, non-lawyer, to be her "spokesman" at the hearing. Corum indicated she is dependent on her husband because she is not a public speaker and her husband is more knowledgeable because he controls the family's finances. Corum argues because she was denied her request to have her husband serve as her counsel, the inconsistencies in the plaintiff's affidavit were not pointed out to the court. Corum also argues the court deprived her husband of his right to free speech. American Express argues the district court did not abuse its discretion in conducting the proceedings, and summary judgments were properly granted as a matter of law.

         [¶ 4] On appeal, Corum again requested her husband be able to speak on her behalf at oral argument. Upon the denial of that request, Corum requested her oral argument be waived.

         II

         [¶ 5] Corum appeals the summary judgments entered in two collection actions commenced by American Express. We conclude both summary judgments are supported by the record and summarily affirm under N.D.R.App.P. 35.1(a)(6).

         III

         [¶ 6] Corum also argues that her husband should have been allowed to speak for her during court proceedings. The district court denied the request for Corum's husband to speak on her behalf. Corum argues: the district court violated her right to counsel; she was unable to point out inconsistencies in American Express' affidavit; and the district court violated her husband's right to free speech.

         [¶ 7] "Except as otherwise provided by state law or supreme court rule, a person may not practice law, act as an attorney or counselor at law in this state, or commence, conduct, or defend in any court of record of this state, any action or proceeding in which the person is not a party concerned." N.D.C.C. § 27-11-01. An unlicensed person may not act as an attorney for another person in his or her case, and conducting oneself in court on behalf of ...


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