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Vazeen v. Vazin

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 8, 2017

JON ROOZBEH VAZEEN, AKA HASSAN VAZIN
v.
MICHELLE SMITH VAZIN

          Assigned on Briefs July 3, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 14D2614Phillip R. Robinson, Judge

         The trial court granted Wife a divorce; divided marital assets and liabilities; and awarded Husband five years of rehabilitative alimony. Husband appealed. Due to the deficiencies in Husband's appellate brief, we do not reach Husband's substantive issues and dismiss the appeal.

          Jon Roozbeh Vazeen, Nashville, Tennessee, pro se.

          Virginia J. Connell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michelle S. Vazin.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which W. Neal McBrayer, J. joined. Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., filed a separate concurring and dissenting opinion.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

         Appellant Jon Roozbeh Vazeen ("Husband") and Appellee Michelle Smith Vazin ("Wife") were married in February 1990. Wife filed for divorce on December 12, 2014. At the time of the divorce, the parties had no minor children. Husband filed a counter-complaint for divorce on November 24, 2015. Following a hearing, the trial court dismissed Husband's counter-complaint and granted Wife an absolute divorce based on Husband's inappropriate marital conduct. The trial court divided the marital assets and liabilities and awarded Husband five years of rehabilitative alimony. Husband appeals.

         Discussion

         Husband raises eight issues for review. It appears that Husband appeals the division of marital property, as well as the amount and duration of alimony. However, because Husband's brief fails to comport with the requirements of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we do not reach his substantive issues.

         We are cognizant that Husband is proceeding pro se in this appeal. Courts should take into account that many pro se litigants have no legal training and little familiarity with the judicial system. Garrard v. Tenn. Dep't of Corr., No. M2013-01525-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 1887298, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 8, 2014)(internal citations omitted). Therefore, the courts give pro se litigants who are untrained in the law a certain amount of leeway in drafting their pleadings and briefs. Whitaker, 32 S.W.3d at 227; Paehler v. Union Planters Nat'l Bank, Inc., 971 S.W.2d 393, 397 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997). "Pro se litigants who invoke the complex and technical procedures of the courts assume a very heavy burden." Irvin v. City of Clarksville, 767 S.W.2d 649, 652 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1989). While a party who chooses to represent himself or herself is entitled to the fair and equal treatment of the courts, Hodges v. Tenn. Att'y Gen., 43 S.W.3d 918, 920 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000), "[p]ro se litigants are not . . . entitled to shift the burden of litigating their case to the courts." Whitaker v. Whirlpool Corp., 32 S.W.3d 222, 227 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000). Instead, pro se litigants are held to the same procedural and substantive standards to which lawyers must adhere. Diggs v. Lasalle Nat. Bank Assoc., et al., 387 S.W.3d 559, 563 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012); Brown v. Christian Bros. University, No. W2012-01336-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 3982137, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 5, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 15, 2014).

         The contents of appellate briefs are governed by Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. According to the rule, the Appellant's brief shall contain:

(2) A table of authorities, including cases (alphabetically arranged), statutes and other authorities cited, with references to the pages in the brief where they are cited;
(7) An argument, which may be preceded by a summary of argument, setting forth:(A) the contentions of the appellant with respect to the issues presented, and the reasons therefor, including the reasons why the contentions require appellate relief, with citations to the authorities and appropriate references to the record (which may be quoted verbatim) relied on; and (B) for each issue, a concise statement of the applicable standard of review (which ...

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