WHOLESALE AUTO GROUP, INC.
LOUISIANA MOTOR VEHICLE COMMISSION
APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 772-076, DIVISION
"L" HONORABLE DONALD A. ROWAN, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, WHOLESALE AUTO GROUP, INC.
Mark D. Plaisance.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, LOUISIANA MOTOR VEHICLE
COMMISSION Adrian F. LaPeyronnie, III.
composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Fredericka Homberg
Wicker, and Hans J. Liljeberg.
FREDERICKA HOMBERG WICKER JUDGE.
Wholesale Auto Group, Inc. ("Wholesale"), appeals
the district court's August 2, 2017 judgment dismissing
its "Petition for Appeal of Administrative
Adjudication" for lack of jurisdiction, as the petition
was impermissibly filed on its behalf by a non-lawyer
corporate representative and therefore, without effect. For
the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court's
and Procedural History
March 13, 2017, the Louisiana Motor Vehicle Commission
("LMVC") conducted a hearing addressing a complaint
that Wholesale had engaged in both the unlicensed business of
financing motor vehicles and in misleading and prohibited
advertising for the period between January 27, 2015, and
March 13, 2017, all in violation of Louisiana law. Following
its hearing, on April 19, 2017, LMVC issued its judgment
against Wholesale in both regards, finding Wholesale had
violated both La. R.S. 6:969.35 and Louisiana Administrative
Code 46.V.703, 713, 745 and 749. LMVC assessed a $100, 000.00
fine against Wholesale as well as costs in the amount of $35,
583.56, related to the LMVC proceedings, and $2, 940.24,
related to the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court
proceedings.Wholesale was represented by counsel during
the LMVC proceedings. Thereafter, on May 12, 2017, in
response to the judgment, fine, and costs assessed, Wholesale
filed a "Petition for Appeal of Administrative
Adjudication and Request for Stay Order Pending Appeal"
in the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court. Danny Alonzo,
Wholesale's corporate agent and owner, filed the
appellate petition in the 24th Judicial District
Court on Wholesale's behalf. Alonzo is not licensed to
practice law in Louisiana. Wholesale in its petition for
administrative appeal sought reversal of LMVC's April 19,
2017 judgment, arguing the judgment (1) violates the
Louisiana Constitution; (2) violates the Louisiana
Administrative Procedure Act; (3) exceeds the statutory
authority of the Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act; and (4) is
not supported by the preponderance of the evidence. On May
16, 2017, pending a hearing on the merits of the appeal, the
Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court issued an order staying
the execution of the LMVC judgment.
response to Wholesale's petition for administrative
appeal, LMVC filed an "Opposition to Rule Nisi and
Request for this Court's Dismissal of Appeal Ex
Proprio Motu, " arguing that Wholesale's
petition for appeal was null and without legal effect because
Danny Alonzo, as a non-lawyer corporate agent for Wholesale,
was not authorized to represent Wholesale, and had engaged in
the unlawful practice of law in violation of La. R.S. 37:213.
Consequently, LMVC argued that because the petition for
appeal was not properly filed within thirty days of the
mailing of the notice of judgment, pursuant to La. R.S.
49:964(B), the filing of the petition for appeal in the
Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court was without effect and
must be dismissed.
19, 2017, Wholesale filed an opposition to the request for
dismissal claiming Alonzo's motion for appeal was legally
valid as a corporation is entitled to tend to its own
business and legal demands. Wholesale argued the filing of
its petition for appeal falls within the narrow exception,
set forth in La. R.S. 37:212(C), to the general rule provided
in La. R.S. 37:213, precluding non-lawyers from practicing
law. Wholesale argued La. R.S. 37:212 (C) generally permits a
non-lawyer corporate representative to appear in court on
behalf of a corporate entity, particularly in this case as
the LMVC judgment issued only a fine and costs, which is
distinguishable from a judgment arising out of a claim for
24, 2017, the district court heard arguments on LMVC's
request for dismissal and on August 2, 2017, the district
court granted LMVC's motion and dismissed Wholesale's
appeal. On August 15, 2017, Wholesale filed a motion for