Townsend v. Div. of Emp't Sec.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Citation654 S.W.3d 424
Docket NumberED 110085
Parties Latanya TOWNSEND, Appellant, v. DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, Respondent.
Decision Date18 October 2022

654 S.W.3d 424

Latanya TOWNSEND, Appellant,

No. ED 110085

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION TWO.

FILED: October 18, 2022

Latanya Townsend, Pro se.

For Respondent: Marie C. Dwyer, P.O. Box 59, Jefferson City, MO 65104.



Latanya Townsend ("Townsend") appeals from the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (the "Commission") denying her unemployment benefits. The Division of Employment Security (the "Division") maintains Townsend voluntarily quit her job without good cause. Because the briefing does not substantially comply with the mandatory requirements of Rule 84.04,1 the appeal preserves nothing for our review. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.


For us to review an appeal, the appellant must comply with the minimum requirements for appellate briefing set forth in Rule 84.04. Freeland v. Div. of Emp. Sec., 647 S.W.3d 22, 24 (Mo. App. W.D. 2022) (quoting Murphree v. Lakeshore Est., LLC, 636 S.W.3d 622, 623–24 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021) ). An appellant's failure to adhere to the briefing standards outlined in Rule 84.04 preserves nothing for appeal and is grounds for dismissal. Indelicato v. McBride & Son Mgmt. Co., LLC, 646 S.W.3d 305, 307 (Mo. App. E.D. 2022) (quoting Hoover v. Hoover, 581 S.W.3d 638, 640 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019) ).

"Rule 84.04 is not merely a rule of technicalities" but instead "serves several necessary functions." Freeland, 647 S.W.3d at 24 (quoting Murphree, 636 S.W.3d at 624 ). "[C]ompliance with Rule 84.04 ensures that the opposing party is adequately informed of the precise matters in contention and informs this Court of the issues for review." Id. (quoting Murphree, 636 S.W.3d at 624 ). "Perhaps even more importantly, an appellant's compliance with Rule 84.04 is necessary to ensure that this Court retains its role as a neutral arbiter." Id. (quoting Murphree, 636 S.W.3d at 624 ). "Deficient briefing runs the risk of forcing this Court to assume

654 S.W.3d 427

the role of advocate by requiring us to sift through the legal record, reconstruct the statement of facts, and craft a legal argument on the appellant's behalf." Id. (quoting Murphree, 636 S.W.3d at 624 ). "This requires this Court to speculate as to the facts and arguments that may have been asserted." Id. (quoting Murphree, 636 S.W.3d at 624 ). "If this Court cannot reach the merits without supplementing the appellant's legal arguments, then nothing has been preserved for review." Id. (quoting Murphree, 636 S.W.3d at 624 ).

Further, "[p]ro se appellants must follow the same rules of procedure as parties represented by attorneys, and they are not entitled to exceptions they would not receive if represented by counsel." Id. at 26 (quoting Barbero v. Wilhoit Props., Inc., 637 S.W.3d 590, 595 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021) ); Indelicato, 646 S.W.3d at 307 (citing Hoover, 581 S.W.3d at 640 ). "Our application of the rules stems not from a lack of sympathy, but instead from a necessity for judicial impartiality, judicial economy, and fairness to all parties." Freeland, 647 S.W.3d at 26 (quoting Barbero, 637 S.W.3d at 595 ). "Although our Court prefers to dispose of a case on the merits whenever possible, we must dismiss the appeal if the deficiencies in the appellant's brief are such that no claims are preserved for appellate review." Richardson v. Div. of Emp. Sec., 573 S.W.3d 125, 128 (Mo. App. E.D. 2019) (internal citation omitted).

Townsend's amended pro se appeal from the Commission's denial of unemployment benefits fails to comply with Rule 84.04 in numerous respects and deprives this Court the opportunity to meaningfully review the case. See id.; see also Murphree, 636 S.W.3d at 624. As the Division notes in its motion to dismiss the appeal, which we took with the case, the contents of Townsend's brief are deficient under Rule 84.04(a) in omitting a table of statutes or other authorities as well as in combining the table of contents for the brief and the appendix, which also violates Rule 84.04(h)’s requirement for a separate appendix to be filed with its own table of contents. See Rule 84.04(a), (h). The jurisdictional statement does not meet the minimum requirements of Rule 84.04(b) because it states only Townsend's argument and does not provide a statement of jurisdiction. See Rule 84.04(b). Additionally, the brief statement of facts does not consist of "a fair and concise statement of the facts relevant to the questions presented for determination without argument" and lacks any citations to the record on appeal. See Rule 84.04(c) (requiring 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"). "A violation of Rule 84.04(c), standing alone, constitutes grounds...

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