The District Court held a hearing to allow Levi Rudder to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for the unauthorized practice of law. The court found that Rudder, who is not admitted to any bar or licensed to practice law, contacted a represented detainee facing federal firearm charges and attempted to interject himself into the case. Despite defense counsel’s instruction to Rudder that he should not contact the detainee again, Rudder, among other things, engaged in an unprivileged, monitored video meeting with the detainee, offered the detainee legal advice, and encouraged the detainee to sign a form appointing Rudder as his additional counsel. The District Court exercised its inherent powers and ordered Rudder to pay a monetary sanction of $500 and barred him from filing documents in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas without first obtaining the Court’s permission.  Rudder appealed, arguing that the Constitution does not afford Federal Courts inherent powers to sanction individuals for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. But the U.S. Fifth Circuit affirmed:

“Federal courts have the inherent power to police the conduct of litigants and attorneys who appear before them. Generally, a party cannot be represented by a nonlawyer. Indeed, requiring a minimum level of competence protects not only the client but also his or her adversaries and the court from poorly drafted, inarticulate, or vexatious claims. It follows logically, then, that a federal court’s power to regulate and discipline attorneys appearing before it extends to conduct by nonlawyers amounting to practicing law without a license. Thus, a court may resort to its inherent powers to sanction a person engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.”


In re Levi Rudder, 100 F.4th 582 (5th Cir. 2024).