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Beard v. Glass

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 7, 2017

CHARLES BEARD
v.
ARVIN W. GLASS ET AL.

          Assigned on Briefs May 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Rutherford County No. 71376 Howard W. Wilson, Chancellor

         The plaintiff filed this action against the defendants, alleging that the plaintiff had been wrongfully expelled from the Prince Hall Masonic organization. The plaintiff further alleged that he had been defamed and his reputation damaged. The action was dismissed by the trial court due to the plaintiff's failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff timely appealed. Because the plaintiff has failed to comply with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27 and Tennessee Court of Appeals Rule 6, we dismiss this appeal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          Charles Beard, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Isaac T. Conner and Afton Strong, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Arvin W. Glass, Grandmaster, and Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

          Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins, J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          THOMAS R. FRIERSON, II, JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Charles Beard, filed a complaint on May 23, 2016, in the Rutherford County Circuit Court ("trial court"), naming as defendants Arvin W. Glass, Grandmaster, and Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge (collectively, "Defendants"). Mr. Beard, proceeding self-represented, alleged that he had been wrongfully expelled from the Prince Hall Masonic organization by Mr. Glass. Mr. Beard also alleged that he had been defamed by Mr. Glass, resulting in damage to his reputation. Mr. Beard sought damages and reinstatement to the organization.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on October 18, 2016, asserting that Mr. Beard had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Defendants claimed that Mr. Beard had failed to provide a short and plain statement of the facts upon which his claims were based and also that he had failed to state his claims with sufficient specificity. Defendants further asserted that the trial court had no subject matter jurisdiction regarding what was, essentially, an "intra-fraternity dispute." Mr. Beard responded by filing various documents in support of his complaint, including correspondence between Mr. Beard and Mr. Glass, excerpts from the Prince Hall Masonic Code and Constitution, and press releases.

         The trial court conducted a hearing regarding the motion to dismiss on October 28, 2016. In its resultant order, dated November 1, 2016, the court dismissed Mr. Beard's claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Mr. Beard timely appealed. On appeal, Mr. Beard filed a document entitled, "Brief in Support of Appeal and Petition for Summary Judgment, " which this Court treated as the principal brief of the appellant. Mr. Beard also filed an amendment to his brief. Following our review of these documents, however, we determine that Mr. Beard has failed to comply with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27 and Tennessee Court of Appeals Rule 6.

         We recognize that Mr. Beard is a pro se litigant and respect his decision to proceed self-represented. With regard to self-represented litigants, this Court has explained:

Pro se litigants who invoke the complex and sometimes technical procedures of the courts assume a very heavy burden. Gray v. Stillman White Co., 522 A.2d 737, 741 (R.I. 1987). Conducting a trial with a pro se litigant who is unschooled in the intricacies of evidence and trial practice can be difficult. Oko v. Rogers, 125 Ill.App.3d 720, 81 Ill.Dec. 72, 75, 466 N.E.2d 658, 661 (1984). Nonetheless, trial courts are expected to appreciate and be understanding of the difficulties encountered by a party who is embarking into the maze of the judicial process with no experience or formal training.

Irvin v. City of Clarksville, 767 S.W.2d 649, 652 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1988). Parties proceeding without benefit of counsel are "entitled to fair and equal treatment by the courts, " but we "must not excuse pro se litigants from complying with the same substantive and procedural rules that represented parties are expected to observe." Hessmer v. Hessmer, 138 S.W.3d 901, 903 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003). This Court must "be mindful of the boundary between fairness to a pro se litigant and unfairness to the pro se litigant's adversary." Id. Furthermore, "[p]ro se litigants are not . . . entitled to shift the burden of litigating their case to the courts." See Chiozza v. Chiozza, 315 S.W.3d 482, 487 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 20, 2010) (quoting Whitaker v. Whirlpool Corp., 32 S.W.3d 222, 227 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000)).

         As a threshold matter, we address, sua sponte, Mr. Beard's failure to comply with the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and the rules of this Court. Tennessee ...


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