Appellate Procedure • Pro Se Litigants • PCRA Petitions

Commonwealth v. Spuck, PICS Case No. 14-0234 (Pa. Super. Feb. 10, 2014) Wecht, J. (13 pages).

Where a pro se litigant files an appellate brief that flagrantly fails to conform to multiple rules of appellate procedure, the court need not extend courtesy normally granted to pro se litigants and may quash the appeal on that basis. Quashed.

Defendant Daniel Spuck filed this appeal from dismissal of his PCRA petition stemming from his conviction for third degree murder, reckless endangerment and assault. Defendant had filed numerous appeals before this court, and his appeal appeared to the court to be a page-for-page copy of a prior appeal that, in excess of 80 pages and 21,000 words, violated multiple Appellate Rules of Procedure, which were amended prior to defendant’s appeal and as they were before amendment.

Specifically, the court noted that defendant’s appeal failed to conform to Rule 2135, limiting the length of briefs; Rule 124(a)(3), requiring double-spacing of pages; Rule 2111, requiring a statement of the court’s jurisdiction; Rule 2116(a), requiring concise statement of the issues to be resolved; the entirety of Rule 2117; and Rule 2118 governing the summary of the argument, which the instant court found, like the argument itself, to consist primarily of self-serving and unsubstantiated criticisms of the courts and vague allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel.

The court further noted that defendant’s underlying PCRA petition was untimely, and defendant did not qualify for any of the statutory exceptions to the PCRA jurisdictional time limits. However, the court decided to quash defendant’s appeal solely on the basis of his utter failure to file a brief in compliance with appellate rules. The court noted its prior decision in Laird v. Bernard, where the court held that pro se litigants are not necessarily held to the same technical perfection as attorneys and will not be denied justice where such litigants make an effort to follow the rules of appellate procedure, but will not have the merits of their appeal addressed favorably where procedural shortcoming in the brief are pervasive.