Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
Theresa Counts Burke
T. Quigless, J.
Lee Hamilton ("Mr. Hamilton") appeals pro
se from the circuit court's judgment following a
trial de novo on his small claims petition against
George M. Archer ("Mr. Archer"). The circuit court
entered judgment in favor of Mr. Archer. Mr. Hamilton's
brief fails to comply with the rules of appellate procedure
so substantially that we cannot review this appeal, and we
therefore dismiss it.
se appellants are held to the same standards as
attorneys regarding the mandatory appellate briefing
requirements of Rule 84.04. Scott v. Potter Elec. Signal
Co., 310 S.W.3d 311, 312 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010);
Richardson v. Meritorious Care, Inc., 307 S.W.3d
684, 684 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010). "Judicial impartiality,
judicial economy, and fairness to all parties necessitates
that we do not grant pro se litigants preferential
treatment with regard to their compliance with those
procedural rules." Ward v. United Eng'g
Co., 249 S.W.3d 285, 287 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008). While we
prefer to dispose of a case on the merits whenever possible,
if the deficiencies in the brief are such that no claims are
preserved for appellate review, then we must dismiss the
appeal. Scott, 310 S.W.3d at 312 (citing
Schaefer v. Altman, 250 S.W.3d 381, 384 (Mo. App.
Mr. Hamilton failed to comply with Rule 84.04 in several
respects. First, Mr. Hamilton's statement of facts does
not contain a "fair and concise statement of the facts
relevant to the questions presented for determination without
argument." Rule 84.04(c). Rather, Mr. Hamilton's
statement is entirely argumentative and fails to provide this
Court with "an immediate, accurate, complete and
unbiased understanding of the facts of the case."
Kuenz v. Walker, 244 S.W.3d 191, 193 (Mo. App. E.D.
2007). Further, although Mr. Hamilton provides citations to
the legal file and transcript, the majority of the citations
are incorrect or cite to the legal file as a whole. Rule
84.04(c); Lueker v. Mo. W. State Univ., 241 S.W.3d
865, 868 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (citations in appellate briefs
are "mandatory and essential for the effective
functioning of appellate courts because courts cannot spend
time searching the record to determine if factual assertions
in the brief are supported by the record").
Mr. Hamilton's two points relied on fail to adhere to
Rule 84.04(d)(1). Under Rule 84.04(d)(1), a point on appeal
shall: (1) identify the trial court ruling or action that the
appellant challenges; (2) state concisely the legal reasons
for the appellant's claim of reversible error; and (3)
explain in summary fashion why, in the context of the case,
those legal reasons support the claim of reversible error.
Here, neither of Mr. Hamilton's points on appeal states
any legal reason for reversal nor explains why those reasons
constitute error in the context of the case. "The
function of this rule is to give notice to the opposing party
of the precise matters which must be contended with and to
inform the court of the issues presented for review."
Moseley v. Grundy Cty. Dist. R-V Sch., 319 S.W.3d
510, 512 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010). A point relied on that fails
to comply with Rule 84.04(d) preserves nothing for review.
Washington v. Blackburn, 286 S.W.3d 818, 821 (Mo.
App. E.D. 2009).
Mr. Hamilton's brief violates Rule 84.04(e) because it
fails to set forth the applicable standard of review,
presents no legal argument, and contains no relevant
citations to legal authority. Mr. Hamilton's argument
does not provide a standard of review for trial court
decisions as required by Rule 84.04(e). Nor does the argument
"explain why, in the context of the case, the law
supports the claim of reversible error." In re
Marriage of Smith, 283 S.W.3d 271, 275 (Mo. App. E.D.
2009). "The argument should develop the claim of error
by showing the interaction between the relevant principles of
law and the facts of the particular case." Johnson
v. Buffalo Lodging Assocs., 300 S.W.3d 580, 582 (Mo.
App. E.D. 2009). From what we can decipher from Mr.
Hamilton's brief, his argument contains only bare
conclusions without linking those conclusions to specific
testimony or evidence and without providing any rationale
supporting the conclusions. See Washington, 286
S.W.3d at 821.
Mr. Hamilton's first point neither includes any citation
to legal authority nor explains why authority is not
available. See In re Marriage of Fritz, 243 S.W.3d
484, 488 (Mo. App. E.D. 2007). Mr. Hamilton's second
point includes four case citations, however, he neglects to
describe how the holdings and facts of the cases are
applicable to the present case. See Moseley, 319
S.W.3d at 513. "Failure to cite relevant authority
supporting the point or to explain the failure to do so
preserves nothing for review." Fritz, 243
S.W.3d at 488. As with Mr. Hamilton's deficient statement
of facts and points relied on, his failure to comply with
Rule 84.04(e)'s requirements regarding the argument is
grounds for dismissal of his appeal. See Duncan-Anderson
v. Duncan, 321 S.W.3d 498 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010).
we acknowledge Mr. Hamilton is a pro se appellant,
without further development regarding the precise claim of
error, we would be required to speculate as to Mr.
Hamilton's exact argument and substitute our own
developed argument on appeal. See Kramer v. Park-Et
Restaurant, Inc., 226 S.W.3d 867, 870 (Mo. App. E.D.
2007) ("Appellate courts should not become advocates for
an appellant by speculating about facts and arguments that
have not been made."). From what we can garner from Mr.
Hamilton's brief, we interpret his argument to be that
the trial court erred in denying his motion for summary
judgment. However, the function of an appellate court is not
to serve as an advocate for the parties on appeal, and this
Court must carefully safeguard its role as a neutral
adjudicator. Martin v. Morgan, 61 S.W.3d 300, 302
(Mo. App. E.D. 2001). Addressing arguments that a party did
not sufficiently develop, "would run the risk of
creating poor precedent and manipulating the adversarial
process." Rodieck v. Rodieck, 265 S.W.3d 377,
385 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (quoting Waller v. Shippey,
251 S.W.3d 403, 407 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008)).
extent Mr. Hamilton is arguing trial court error for denying
his motion for summary judgment, the law is abundantly clear
that the "denial of a motion for summary judgment is not
subject to appellate review, even when an appeal is taken
from a final judgment and not from the denial of a motion for
summary judgment." Hihn v. Hihn, 235 S.W.3d 64,
67 (Mo. App. E.D. 2007); see also Kaskutas v. Allstate
Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 438 S.W.3d 526, 529 (Mo. App.
E.D. 2014); Gamble v. Browning, 277 S.W.3d 723,
729-30 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008). Therefore, assuming our
interpretation of Mr. Hamilton's argument is correct, his
claim is unreviewable. See Hihn, 235 S.W.3d at 67.
Hamilton's brief so substantially fails to comply with
the mandatory briefing requirements of Rule 84.04 that it
preserves nothing for our review. See Schaefer, 250
S.W.3d at ...