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McGuire v. Edwards

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

April 2, 2019

DR. PATT MCGUIRE, Appellant,
v.
JERRY EDWARDS, SCOTT BRIETE, ST. LOUIS COUNTY, STATE OF MISSOURI, OFFICE OF THE STATE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, and GENEVIEVE FRANK, Respondents.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Honorable Joseph L. Walsh III

          KURT S. ODENWALD, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Introduction

         Dr. Patt McGuire ("Dr. McGuire") appeals from the circuit court's dismissal of her amended petition regarding a clerical error on Case.net for failure to state a claim. We dismiss Dr. McGuire's appeal for failure to comply with the mandatory appellate briefing standards of Rule 84.04.[1] Even had Dr. McGuire's brief complied with the requirements of Rule 84.04, her amended petition creates no cognizable legal cause of action and is thus meritless.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Dr. McGuire filed an employment discrimination claim against her former employer. During the course of her suit, Dr. McGuire noticed when she looked at Case.net online that the system had removed two of the defendants on her case ("the Change").[2] Specifically, after the Change, Case.net showed that two parties had an "end date" of November 21, 2017 and showed the "party end reason" as "Party Released/Ended."

         Dr. McGuire sought to speak about the Change with the judge assigned to her employment discrimination case. The judge's clerk ("Clerk") attempted to answer Dr. McGuire's questions regarding the Change on Case.net. Clerk stated that she was unfamiliar with the Change and asked Dr. McGuire to wait while Clerk spoke with the judge. After a few minutes, Clerk returned to Dr. McGuire and told her "the judge said he did not do that." Dr. McGuire requested that Clerk ask a manager how and why the Change appeared on Case.net. Clerk sent Dr. McGuire to the Circuit Clerk's Office. Once there, Dr. McGuire insisted on speaking with the lead manager. However, he was unavailable at the time.

         The following day, Dr. McGuire returned to the Circuit Clerk's Office. Jerry Edwards ("Edwards"), the director of the Circuit Clerk's Office, assisted Dr. McGuire. Edwards reviewed Case.net and corrected the Change to reflect that no party had been formally dismissed from Dr. McGuire's employment discrimination case. Dr. McGuire asked how the Change occurred and who changed the information, among other questions. Edwards was unable to answer and referred Dr. McGuire to the legal department. The Change was viewable on Case.net for a total of six days.

         Dr. McGuire then filed a claim against Edwards and St. Louis County for tampering, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dr. McGuire sought $35, 000, 000 in compensatory damages and another $35, 000, 000 in punitive damages. Edwards removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. McGuire v. Edwards, No. 4:18-CV-71 CAS, 2018 WL 783064 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 8, 2018). The United States District Court remanded the case to St. Louis County because even though Dr. McGuire asserted a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, her "claims [were] so completely devoid of merit as to not involve a federal controversy." Id. After the case was remanded to St. Louis County, Dr. McGuire filed an amended petition, asserting claims against Edwards, Scott Briete-Edwards's immediate supervisor- the State of Missouri, St. Louis County, and the Office of the State Court Administrator (collectively, "Respondents"). Respondents moved to dismiss Dr. McGuire's petition for failure to state a claim. The circuit court granted Respondents' motion and dismissed Dr. McGuire's petition with prejudice. Dr. McGuire now appeals.

         Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's grant of a motion to dismiss de novo. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist. v. City of Bellefontaine Neighbors, 476 S.W.3d 913, 915 (Mo. banc 2016) (quoting Lynch v. Lynch, 260 S.W.3d 834, 836 (Mo. banc 2008)). We "treat[] the facts contained in the petition as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Id. Further, "[i]f the petition sets forth any set of facts that, if proven, would entitle the plaintiff[] to relief, then the petition states a claim." Id.

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim tests the adequacy of a plaintiff's petition. When considering whether a petition fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, this Court must accept all properly pleaded facts as true, giving the pleadings their broadest intendment, and construe all allegations favorably to the pleader. The Court reviews the petition to see if the facts alleged, given their broadest intendment, meet the elements of a cause of action that is recognized or that might be adopted.

Peters v. Wady Indus., 489 S.W.3d 784, 789 (Mo. banc 2016) (internal quotations omitted).

         Discussion

         I. Dr. McGuire Submitted an Insufficient Appellate Brief under Rule 84.04.

         Dr. McGuire is a pro se appellant. We hold pro se appellants to the same standards as attorneys, including considerations for compliance with Supreme Court of Missouri Rules. See Carlisle v. Rainbow Connection, Inc., 300 S.W.3d 583, 584 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009). Although "[w]e are mindful of the problems that a pro se litigant faces[, ] . . . judicial impartiality, judicial economy, and fairness to all parties necessitate that we do not grant a pro se appellant preferential treatment with regard to complying with the rules of appellate procedure." Id. at 584-85; Midtown Home Improvements, Inc. v. Taylor, No. ED106721, 2019 WL 1029609, at *2 (Mo. App. E.D. Mar. 5, 2019). Under the clear mandate of Rule 84.04, "[w]hile we prefer, whenever possible, to dispose of a case on the merits, we must dismiss the appeal if the deficiencies in the brief are such that no claims are preserved for appellate review." Taylor, 2019 WL 1029609, at *5 (citing Hamilton v. Archer, 545 S.W.3d 377, 379 (Mo. ...


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