Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
TERENCE E. PORTER, JR., Appellant,
SANTANDER CONSUMER USA, INC., Respondent.
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 17SL-CC00088
Honorable Joseph L. Walsh
P. PAGE, JUDGE
E. Porter, Jr. ("Porter") appeals the trial
court's judgment entered in favor of Santander Consumer
USA, Inc. ("Santander") after a bench trial. Porter
raises six points on appeal. Porter's appeal
substantially fails to comply with the mandatory requirements
of Missouri Supreme Court Rule 84.04; therefore, it preserves
nothing for our review. We dismiss his appeal.
84.04 sets forth the requirement for appellate briefs and
compliance with these requirements "is mandatory in
order to ensure that appellate courts do not become advocates
by speculating on facts and on arguments that have not been
made." Tatum v. Tatum, 577 S.W.3d 146, 149 (Mo.
E.D. App. 2019). Porter appeals pro se.
court holds pro se appellants to the same standards
as attorneys; accordingly, pro se litigants are
"subject to the same procedural rules as parties
represented by counsel, including the rules specifying the
required contents of appellate briefs."
Duncan-Anderson v. Duncan, 321 S.W.3d 498, 499 (Mo.
App. E.D. 2010); Rainey v. SSPS, Inc., 259 S.W.3d
603, 604 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008). A pro se appellant is
not granted preferential treatment in regard to their
compliance with procedural briefing rules; this is not for
lack of sympathy, but rather is "necessitated by the
requirement of judicial impartiality, judicial economy, and
fairness to all parties." Bruce v. City of
Farmington, 551 S.W.3d 65, 66 (Mo. App. E.D. 2018);
Elkins v. Elkins, 257 S.W.3d 617, 618 (Mo. App. E.D.
2008). Our court has the discretion to review non-compliant
briefs ex gratia where the argument is readily
understandable. Brown v. Brown, 530 S.W.3d 35,
40–41 (Mo. App. E.D. 2017). However, if the
deficiencies in the brief are such that no claims are
preserved for appellate review, we must dismiss the appeal.
McGuire v. Edwards, 571 S.W.3d 661, 666 (Mo. App.
appellate brief violates Rule 84.04 in multiple respects,
such that to address the merits of this appeal, this court
would assume the role of Porter's advocate by searching
the record for the relevant facts of the case, speculating
about the possible claims of error, and crafting a legal
argument on his behalf. Kim v. Won II Kim, 443
S.W.3d 29, 31 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014).
Porter's appellate brief fails to "include a concise
statement describing whether the error was preserved for
appellate review; if so, how it was preserved; and the
applicable standard of review." Rule 84.04(e). The
standard of review is essential to all appellate arguments,
as it outlines this court's role in disposing of the
matter before it. Steele v. Schnuck Markets, Inc.,
485 S.W.3d 823, 824 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016). It is not this
court's duty to supplement a deficient brief with its own
research, to comb the record in search of facts to support an
appellant's claim of error, or demonstrate it is properly
preserved for appellate review. Carruthers v. Serenity
Mem'l Funeral & Cremation Serv., LLC, 576 S.W.3d
301, 305 (Mo. App. E.D. 2019).
Rule 84.04 (c) requires an appellant's brief contain
"a fair and concise statement of the facts relevant to
the questions presented for determination without
argument." Porter fails to detail even the basic
circumstances necessary to resolve the claims he attempts to
raise in his appeal. He only provides a paragraph regarding
the evidence presented at trial and does not include
"specific page references to the relevant portion of the
record on appeal, i.e., legal file, transcript, or exhibits .
. . ." as required by Rule 84.04(c).
Porter's "Points Relied On" fail to comply with
Rule 84.04 (d)(1) because not a single one gives notice to
the opposing party or this court of the precise issues
presented for review. Hamilton v. Archer, 545 S.W.3d
377, 380 (Mo. App. E.D. 2018). It is improper for this court
"to speculate as to the point being raised by the
appellant and the supporting legal justification and
circumstances." Wallace v. Frazier, 546 S.W.3d
624, 628 (Mo. App. W.D. 2018).
Porter's brief violates Rule 84.04(e) because his
arguments are so inadequate we can only speculate as to what
his claims are on appeal. See Wallace, 546 S.W.3d at
628 (finding that an appellant's brief must contain an
argument section that discusses the point relied on, and
points that are not developed in the argument are deemed to
be abandoned). His argument for each point relied includes
only a short paragraph that either provides an abstract
statement of law, a rendition of evidence presented, or a
small caption of the transcript of the record. The substance
of each of his arguments fails to demonstrate how principles
of law and the facts of this case interact. Scott v.
Potter Elec Signal Co., 310 S.W.3d 311, 312 (Mo. App.
E.D. 2010). Our court will not speculate as to the parameters
of Porter's arguments on appeal because doing so would
improperly cast the court in the role of his advocate.
McGuire, 571 S.W.3d at 666. "Mere conclusions
and the failure to develop an argument with support from
legal authority preserve nothing for review."
Wallace, 546 S.W.3d at 628 (quoting Nicol,
491 S.W.3d at 271).
we exercise our discretion to dismiss Porter's appeal
because his failure to follow the briefing guidelines impedes
our ability to address the merits of his claims.
appellate brief fails to substantially comply with the
mandatory appellate briefing standards of Rule 84.04 and
preserves nothing for ...