Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF TANEY COUNTY Honorable Eric D.
Vitabile ("Defendant") was found guilty, after a
bench trial, of operating a motor vehicle without a valid
driver's license and sentenced to pay a $300.00 fine and
court costs. See section 302.020. Due to briefing
deficiencies that materially impede impartial judicial
review, we are unable to reach the merits (if any) of
Defendant's pro se complaints and must dismiss
2016, Deputy Matthew Vanderpool ("Deputy
Vanderpool") observed Defendant driving a truck that had
no rear license plate. Deputy Vanderpool did notice a license
plate inside the back window of the truck, but he was unable
to read it. After pulling the truck over, Deputy Vanderpool
asked Defendant for his license, registration, and proof of
insurance. The driver's license Defendant produced had
expired in 2006. Deputy Vanderpool issued Defendant a traffic
citation for operating a motor vehicle without a valid
appeal of a criminal case, "[t]he form and contents of
the briefs shall contain the material prescribed by Rule
84.04 and Rule 84.06." Rule 30.06(a).
Pro se appellants are held to the same standards as
licensed attorneys. The briefs of pro se appellants,
as with all appellants, must comply with the rules of
appellate procedure, including Rule 84.04, which governs the
content of appellate briefs. A pro se litigant is
not granted preferential treatment if he or she fails to
comply with the requirements of Rule 84.04, and failure to
comply with this Rule constitutes grounds for dismissal. Our
adherence to these principles stems not from a lack of
sympathy for the pro se appellant, but is necessary
to assure judicial impartiality, judicial economy, and
fairness to all parties.
Hankins v. Reliance Auto., Inc., 312 S.W.3d 491,
493-94 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010) (internal citations omitted).
Defendant's brief is "so replete with Rule 84.04
violations that we are unable to review [his] appeal."
Hometown Bank, N.A. v. Yer Yang, 432 S.W.3d 806, 807
(Mo. App. S.D. 2014). The following list includes only the
most egregious of Defendant's Rule 84.04 violations.
• Statement of Facts: Rule 84.04(c)
requires that "[a]ll statements of facts shall have
specific page references to the relevant portion of the
record on appeal, i.e., legal file, transcript, or
exhibits." Defendant's statement of facts contains
no citations to the record on appeal. "This Court will
not act as an advocate by scouring the record for facts to
support Defendant's contentions." First State
Bank of St. Charles v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co.,
277 S.W.3d 749, 752 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008).
• Points Relied On: Rule 84.04(d)
requires that each point relied on shall "be in
substantially the following form: 'The trial court erred
in [identify the challenged ruling or action],
because [state the legal reasons for the claim of
reversible error], in that [explain why the legal
reasons, in the context of the case, support the claim of
reversible error].'" The requirements of this
rule are mandatory and must be strictly applied. Martin
v. Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, 580 S.W.2d
307, 308 (Mo. App. St.L.D. 1978). "Adherence to the rule
serves to notify the opposing party of the precise matters
under contention and inform the court of the issues presented
for review." Carden v. Missouri Intergovernmental
Risk Mgmt. Ass'n, 258 S.W.3d 547, 556 (Mo. App. S.D.
2008). Defendant completely disregards this requirement as
his brief contains no points relied on.
• Argument: Rule 84.04(e) requires that
the argument must discuss the point and "should show how
the principles of law and the facts of the case
interact." Snyder v. Snyder, 142 S.W.3d 780,
783 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004). Defendant makes no attempt to
demonstrate such interaction. Further, the point relied on is
to be "restated at the beginning of the section of the
argument discussing that point." Rule 84.04(e). Because
Defendant's brief does not contain any points relied on,
it is impossible for him to comply with these requirements.
Additionally, Rule 84.04(e) requires a concise statement of
the applicable standard of review for each claim of error.
"The standard of review is an essential portion of all
appellate arguments; it outlines this court's role in
disposing of the matter before us." Waller v.
Shippey, 251 S.W.3d 403, 406 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008). None
of Defendant's arguments include this essential
court is not obligated to review briefs that fail to conform
to the mandatory rules of appellate procedure.
Carden, 258 S.W.3d at 557. To rectify
Defendant's briefing deficiencies and determine whether
he might be entitled to any relief would impermissibly
require this court to abandon its proper role of impartial
reviewer and act instead as Defendant's advocate.
Rademan v. Al Scheppers Motor Co., 423 S.W.3d 834,
837 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014).
Defendant's brief is "substantially lacking not only
in form, but in content as well[, ]" Hometown
Bank, 432 S.W.3d at 807 (internal ...