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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PAUL A. STOPPIE (07/20/84)

submitted: July 20, 1984.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
PAUL A. STOPPIE, APPELLANT



No. 3277 and 3278 Philadelphia, 1982 1597 Philadelphia, 1983, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Schuylkill County at No. 195 of 1980.

Cavanaugh, McEwen and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Cavanaugh

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 236]

In this case, the appellant, Paul A. Stoppie, was convicted of murder in the first degree following a jury trial before Dolbin, J. His motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment were denied and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. He has appealed to this court from the judgment of sentence.

Counsel for the appellant in this case has failed in numerous respects to comply with the Rules of Appellate Procedure concerning the contents of appellate briefs. We would be justified in quashing this appeal under Pa.R.A.P. 2101 which provides that appeals may be quashed where defects in the brief are substantial. See also Commonwealth v. Jones, 329 Pa. Super. 20, 477 A.2d 882 (1984) and cases cited therein. See also Commonwealth v. Gigli, 287 Pa. Super. 347, 430 A.2d 319 (1981); Commonwealth v. Holcomb, 261 Pa. Super. 532, 396 A.2d 29 (1978); Commonwealth v. Wyant, 254 Pa. Super. 464, 386 A.2d 43 (1978); Commonwealth v. Jackson, 494 Pa. 457, 431 A.2d 944 (1981). Notwithstanding almost complete disregard of the Rules of Appellate Procedure concerning the contents of a brief, we have considered the appeal on the merits in a separate memorandum opinion. We note a trend in which

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 237]

    appellate counsel ignore our appellate rules concerning the preparation of briefs. See Commonwealth v. Rose, 265 Pa. Super. 159, 166, 401 A.2d 1148, 1152, Footnote 6, (1979) wherein we stated:

Appellant's brief also violates some of our other rules, e.g. Pa.R.A.P. 2115, and the appeal could have been quashed pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 2101. We did not take such drastic action in this appeal due to the seriousness of the issues involved. However, such blatant violations of our rules, without leave of court, will not be tolerated in the future.

See also Commonwealth v. Casner, 315 Pa. Super. 12, 461 A.2d 324 (1983); Commonwealth v. Colon, 317 Pa. Super. 412, 464 A.2d 388 (1983). Appellate counsel who do not comply with our rules run a grave risk that their appeals will be dismissed, and that the responsibility for such dismissal will weigh heavily on the counsel who fail to comply with published rules.

In this case, appellate counsel, who was also counsel in the court below, filed a brief which failed to comply with Pa.R.A.P. 2111(a)(2) which requires that the brief shall contain the "order or other determination in question." This should follow immediately after the Statement of Questions involved. Counsel also ignored Pa.R.A.P. 2115 which requires that "[t]he text of the order or other determination from which an appeal has been taken or which is otherwise sought to be reviewed shall be set forth verbatim immediately following the statement of jurisdiction." One of counsel's most egregious errors was found in his noncompliance with Pa.R.A.P. 2116 which deals with the statement of questions involved. The Rule provides that the statement of questions involved "should not ordinarily exceed 15 lines, [and] must never exceed one page." (Emphasis added) The rule also provides that it is to be "considered in the highest degree mandatory, admitting of no exception." Counsel was not intimidated by this Rule and his brief contains a statement of questions covering thirteen pages. We also note that the statement of questions involved,

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 238]

    while it should not ordinarily exceed 15 lines, in this case covers approximately 195 lines.

Pa.R.A.P. 2118 provides that the summary of argument "should not exceed one page and should never exceed two pages." The summary of argument in the instant case is eight pages long. The appellate rule dealing with the manner of setting forth the argument in the brief is found at Pa.R.A.P. 2119. One of the important provisions of this Rule is found at 2119(b) dealing with citations and is often violated in appellate briefs, as it was in the brief now under consideration. The Rule provides in part:

Opinions of an appellate court of this or another jurisdiction shall be cited from the National Reporter System, if published therein, and to the official reports of ...


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