Assigned on Briefs May 1, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Rutherford County No. 71376 Howard
W. Wilson, Chancellor
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
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed
Charles Beard, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Pro Se.
T. Conner and Afton Strong, Nashville, Tennessee, for the
appellees, Arvin W. Glass, Grandmaster, and Most Worshipful
Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Richard H. Dinkins, J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
R. FRIERSON, II, JUDGE.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)).
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