from an order of the circuit court for Jefferson County No.
2015CV498: WILLIAM F. HUE, Judge.
Sherman, Blanchard and Fitzpatrick, JJ.
curiam opinions may not be cited in any court of this state
as precedent or authority, except for the limited purposes
specified in Wis.Stat. Rule 809.23(3).
Michael Stacey, personal representative of the Estate of
James G. Stacey, seeks review of a circuit court order
affirming a sheriff's sale of real property owned by the
estate. The notice of appeal filed on behalf of the estate
was signed by Michael Stacey, who does not appear to be an
attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin.
We hold that a nonlawyer personal representative of an estate
may not represent the interests of the estate in a mortgage
foreclosure proceeding or an appeal therefrom before a
Wisconsin court. Accordingly, the notice of appeal filed by
Michael Stacey was ineffective to initiate a valid appeal on
behalf of the estate, and we dismiss the appeal for lack of
The decedent, James G. Stacey, signed a promissory note
secured by a mortgage on his residence at W3502 Hagedorn Road
in Jefferson, Wisconsin (the "Property"). Ditech
Financial LLC is the holder of the note and mortgage.
On December 16, 2015, Ditech filed a complaint against the
Estate of James G. Stacey, alleging a delinquency in payments
and seeking to foreclose the mortgage on the Property.
Michael Stacey was personally served with the Summons and
Complaint as the personal representative of the Estate of
James G. Stacey. The estate did not file an answer or other
responsive pleading, and Ditech filed a motion for default
judgment. After the estate failed to respond to the motion
for default judgment or appear at the motion hearing, the
circuit court entered judgment in favor of Ditech on April
14, 2016, setting a three-month redemption period.
A sheriff's sale was held after the redemption period
expired, resulting in the sale of the Property to a third
party. Michael Stacey submitted a letter to the circuit court
judge, objecting to confirmation of the sale. The court held
a hearing on the confirmation motion, and Michael Stacey
appeared as personal representative of the estate. The
circuit court granted Ditech's motion to confirm the
sale, and entered an order confirming the sale on October 18,
2016. Michael Stacey then filed a notice of appeal.
Stacey raises several issues for appellate review on behalf
of the estate. However, an issue of preliminary importance is
whether this appeal is properly before us. This issue was not
raised by the parties. However, it is the duty of this court
to take notice of its jurisdiction, notwithstanding the fact
that no party has raised the issue. See McConley v. T.C.
Visions, Inc., 2016 WI.App. 74, ¶4, 371 Wis.2d 658,
885 N.W.2d 816; see also Taylor v. State, 59 Wis.2d
134, 137, 207 N.W.2d 651 (1973) (court may, sua sponte, raise
and determine the issue of whether it has jurisdiction).
To invoke this court's jurisdiction, the notice of appeal
must be correctly prepared. See Jadair Inc. v. United
States Fire Ins. Co., 209 Wis.2d 187, 211, 562 N.W.2d
401 (1997). In this case, the notice of appeal was signed and
filed by Michael Stacey on behalf of the Estate of James G.
Stacey. Both the appellant's brief and the reply brief
also were signed by Stacey and indicate his status as
"pro se." Black's Law Dictionary
defines "pro se" as follows: "For oneself; on
one's own behalf; without a lawyer[.]"
Black's Law Dictionary 1416 (10th ed. 2014).
Here, Stacey is not appearing for himself in his personal
capacity, however, but on behalf of the estate. Nothing in
the briefs or the record indicates that Stacey is a lawyer.
Previous cases in this court and in the Wisconsin Supreme
Court have examined the issue of whether a nonlawyer may
represent the interests of a separate legal entity in the
courts of this state. In State ex rel. Baker v. County
Court of Rock County, 29 Wis.2d 1, 4, 10-11, 138 N.W.2d
162 (1965), a nonlawyer executor of an estate submitted
probate matters to the county court on behalf of the estate
for adjudication. The judge refused to act upon the
submissions, concluding that the executor was engaged in the
unauthorized practice of law. Id. at 10-11. The
supreme court upheld the ruling of the county court judge,
stating that it viewed the prohibition against the
unauthorized practice of law as a reasonable regulation in
the public interest of orderly judicial administration.
Id. at 11.
The supreme court cited Baker in Jadair
Inc., in which the supreme court considered the question
of whether a notice of appeal is fatally defective when it is
signed and filed by a nonlawyer on behalf of a corporation.
Jadair, 209 Wis.2d at 205-07. The court answered the
question in the affirmative, reasoning that permitting a
nonlawyer to sign and file a notice of appeal on behalf of a
corporation would violate statutory prohibitions against the
unauthorized practice of law. Id. at 204; see
also Wis. Stat. § 757.30 (2015-16) (providing
penalties for the practice of law without a license). The
court concluded that the failure to comply with the
unauthorized practice of law statute voided the appeal.
Jadair, 209 Wis.2d at 213; see also Brown v. MR
Group, LLC, 2004 WI.App. 122, ¶6, 274 ...