A.C. c/o V.R., Appellant,
Agency for Health Care Administration, Appellee.
Appeal from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration
Office of Fair Hearings Lower Tribunal No. 18-FH1770.
c/o V.R., in proper person.
Lee Cooper George, Chief Appellate Counsel and Nicholas A.
Merlin, Senior Attorney (Tallahassee), for appellee.
SALTER, LINDSEY and MILLER, JJ.
ON AHCA'S MOTION TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE MOTHER IS
AUTHORIZED TO APPEAR ON BEHALF OF HER DISABLED MINOR CHILD
appellee, State of Florida, Agency for Health Care
Administration ("AHCA"), has moved the Court to
determine whether the mother, appellant V.R., of a disabled
13 year-old child (A.C.), is legally authorized to represent
A.C. in her appeal from administrative rulings in a Medicaid
benefits case. AHCA points out that Florida's
"unauthorized practice of law" restrictions and two
reported appellate decisions indicate that "a pleading
filed in court by a nonlawyer on behalf of another is
considered a nullity."
issue was not a concern when V.R. represented her daughter
before AHCA's Office of Fair Hearings, culminating in the
order under appeal here. The applicable administrative rules,
Rule 59G-1.100(7), Florida Administrative Code, and 42 C.F.R.
sections 431.221(a) and 435.923, specifically allowed V.R. to
be her daughter's "non-attorney authorized
Florida Bar has not promulgated a Rule Regulating the Florida
Bar to address this specific question, but authority for
V.R.'s pro se representation of her disabled daughter can
be discerned from various sources:
• A parent's status as natural guardian, and the
parent's duties to care for and protect a minor child are
well-settled. Section 744.301(1), Florida Statutes (2019).
"Each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his
or her minor or legally dependent child." §
61.29(1), Fla. Stat. (2019).
• V.R.'s status as an interested party and
intervenor would be assured even if the Medicaid benefits are
claimed by and for the minor child. V.R.'s status before
this Court is as an individual, natural person-not in some
special or limited capacity as a trustee, personal
representative, or corporation, for example.
• Nor is V.R. a family member authorized by a power of
attorney for another adult, as in a case cited by AHCA,
Forman v. State Department of Children &
Families, 956 So.2d 476, 477 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007). The
other decision cited by AHCA on this question, Magnolias
Nursing and Convalescent Center v. Department of Health &
Rehabilitative Services, 428 So.2d 256 (Fla. 1st DCA
1982), is also inapposite. In that case, a Minnesota attorney
who was not licensed to practice in Florida filed a notice of
appeal from an administrative order on behalf of a
corporation. The Department of Health and Rehabilitative
Services moved to strike the notice "since a corporation
cannot represent itself and must have a licensed Florida
attorney representing it in court . . . ." Id.
• By virtue of her physical and intellectual
limitations, A.C. was unable to represent herself in the
administrative proceeding and is unable to represent herself
here. Her treating physician reported a diagnosis of
"encephalopathy, left sided schizencephaly and cerebral
palsy which is manifested by right sided weakness and motor
impairments." The therapies at issue in her appeal are
to help her perform various motor skills and communicate
effectively. Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.540(a)
addresses the duties of Florida's courts to provide
qualified persons with disabilities "with
accommodations, reasonable modifications to rules, policies,
or practices, or the provision of auxiliary aids and
services, in order to participate in programs or activities
provided by the courts of this state." Such
accommodations are intended to assure compliance with the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. section
12101, et. seq.
• AHCA's Office of Fair Hearings granted the
petition of "A.C. c/o V.R." for a determination of
civil indigent status, approving an application declaring
that V.R. has three dependents (including A.C.), is not
married, has net income of $750.00 per month, and has no
other assets. This Court has received a certified copy of
that order and waived the otherwise-applicable filing fee. ...