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Smith v. Conn Appliances, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

March 21, 2017

KELVIN J. SMITH AND ANGELIA SMITH, Appellants
v.
CONN APPLIANCES, INC. D/B/A CONN'S, Appellee

         On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-15-03588-A

          Before Chief Justice Wright, Justice Lang-Miers, and Justice Stoddart

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CAROLYN WRIGHT, CHIEF JUSTICE

         Pro se appellants Kelvin Smith and Angelia Smith appeal the trial court's partial default judgment in favor of Conn Appliances, Inc. By order dated November 17, 2016, the Court ordered the appeal submitted without a reporter's record because appellants had not requested preparation of the record. Thereafter, on December 29, 2016, the Court sent a letter to appellants and advised them that their brief did not satisfy the requirements of rule 38 of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure. See Tex. R. App. P. 38. The Court's letter to appellants listed multiple deficiencies with appellants' brief. The letter also informed appellants that their appeal might be dismissed without further notice if they failed to file an amended brief complying with the rules of appellate procedure within ten days of December 29, 2016. Appellants have not responded to the Court's letter and have failed to file an amended brief.

         Although appellants are pro se, they are required to adhere to the rules of appellate procedure; courts regularly caution pro se litigants that they will not be treated differently than a party who is represented by a licensed attorney. See Bolling v. Farmers Branch Indep. Sch. Dist., 315 S.W.3d 893, 895 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2010, no pet.). Our appellate rules contain specific requirements for briefing that require, among other things, that an appellant provide a statement of facts, which includes references to the record, and an argument that is clear and concise with appropriate citations to authorities and the record. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(g), (i). "Only when we are provided with proper briefing may we discharge our responsibility to review the appeal and make a decision that disposes of the appeal one way or the other." See Bolling, 315 S.W.3d at 895. We are not responsible for searching the record for facts that may be favorable to a party's position or for doing legal research to find authorities that might support a party's position. See Canton-Carter v. Baylor College of Medicine, 271 S.W.3d 928, 931-32 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist] 2008, no pet.); Fredonia State Bank v. Gen. Am. Life Ins. Co., 881 S.W.2d 279, 283-84 (Tex. 1994). If we did so, even for a pro se litigant untrained in law, we would be abandoning our role as judges and become advocates for a party. See Bolling, 315 S.W.3d at 895. "If we can conclude a brief complies with the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, we submit the appeal for review and decision on the merits." Id.

         While we do not adhere to any rigid rule about the form of the brief when determining whether an appellant's brief is deficient, we do "examine briefs for compliance with prescribed briefing rules, " including rule of appellate procedure 38.1. Id; see Tex. R. App. P. 38.1. Here, appellants' brief fails to comply with our briefing rules in several ways:

• It does not contain a complete list of all parties to the trial courts' judgment or appealable order with the names and addresses of all the trial and appellate counsel. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(a).
• The table of contents does not indicate the subject matter of each issue or point, or group of issues or points. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(b).
• It does not contain an index of authorities arranged alphabetically and indicating the pages of the brief where the authorities are cited. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(c).
• It does not contain a concise statement of the case, the course of proceedings, and the trial court's disposition of the case supported by record references. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(d).
• It does not concisely state all issues or points presented for review. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(f). . It does not contain a concise state of facts supported by record references. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(g).
• It does not contain a succinct, clear, and accurate statement of the arguments made in the body of the brief. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(h).
• The argument does not contain appropriate citations to authorities. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(i). . The argument does not contain appropriate citations to the record. Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(i).
• The following were omitted from the appendix: The trial court's judgment, the trial court's finding of fact and conclusions of law; the text of any rule, regulation, ordinance, statute, constitutional provision, or other law on which the argument is based; and the text of any ...

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