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CONDEMNATION PROPERTY ESTATE PAUL CIAFFONI (03/27/89)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 27, 1989.

IN RE: CONDEMNATION OF THE PROPERTY OF THE ESTATE OF PAUL CIAFFONI, DECEASED, ON HORNE BOULEVARD IN THE CITY OF ARNOLD, WESTMORELAND COUNTY, PA. -- WESTMORELAND COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY FOR PUBLIC HOUSING PURPOSES. ROBERT J. CIAFFONI, APPELLANT

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, in the case of In Re: Condemnation of the Property of the Estate of Paul Ciaffoni, Deceased, on Horne Boulevard in the City of Arnold, Westmoreland County, Pa., by the Westmoreland County Housing Authority for public housing purposes, No. 6914 of 1978 In Rem.

COUNSEL

Robert J. Ciaffoni, appellant, for himself.

Robert L. Ceisler, Ceisler/Richman/Sweet Law Firm, for appellee.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 408]

This case comes to us on appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County. The trial court's order directed Robert Ciaffoni (Appellant) to pay counsel fees in the amount of $5,366.00 to the estate of his father Paul Ciaffoni, deceased, in accordance with 42 Pa. C.S. § 2503.

The lengthy and confusing history of this case is not particularly relevant. Suffice it to say that Appellant has been involved in prolonged litigation involving his deceased father's estate. The trial court's award of reasonable counsel fees was in response to an unreported decision by this Court in Appeal of Ciaffoni (No. 74 T.D. 1986, filed June 15, 1987). In that case, this Court found that the protracted litigation caused by Appellant was dilatory and vexatious. For this reason, the Commonwealth Court remanded the matter to the court of common pleas for a determination as to reasonable counsel fees owed to the estate of Paul Ciaffoni by Appellant pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. § 2503(7).*fn1 An evidentiary hearing was conducted and the trial court awarded counsel fees in the amount of $5,366.00 to the estate of Appellant's

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 409]

    father. Appellant now appeals that order to this Court.*fn2

Before proceeding further, we note that Appellant's brief fails to comply with Pa. R.A.P. 2101-2139 pertaining to contents of briefs. These defects include: (1) failure to include a statement of jurisdiction as required by Pa. R.A.P. 2114; (2) failure to set forth a statement of questions involved as required by Pa. R.A.P. 2116; (3) failure to include a summary of argument as required by Pa. R.A.P. 2118; and (4) failure to set forth an argument as required by Pa. R.A.P. 2119. Appellant's brief is seriously inadequate and void of any sincere attempt to comply with our Rules of Appellate Procedure regarding contents of briefs. Based upon these material defects in Appellant's brief, we are unable to conduct a meaningful review of Appellant's case. Therefore, we must quash the appeal to the trial court's order awarding counsel fees without reaching the merits. Huffman v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 124 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 49, 555 A.2d 287 (1989); Lucarelli v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Emerson Electric), 119 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 72, 546 A.2d 151 (1988).*fn3

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 410]

We are cognizant that Appellant is unrepresented by counsel herein and for this reason may not have been aware of these appellate guidelines imposing specific requirements on the contents of briefs. Nevertheless, this Court has previously held that a lay person who proceeds pro se in legal matters must to an extent assume the risk that his lack of expertise in legal matters will prove his undoing. Huffman; Groch v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 81 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 26, 472 A.2d 286 (1984). Additionally, when a party fails to comply with the rules regarding contents of briefs, an appellate court cannot speculate or for that matter formulate what we believe the party's argument on appeal is or ought to be. Huffman.

Lastly, Appellee herein requests that counsel fees be awarded pursuant to Pa. R.A.P. 2744 regarding the instant appeal. We agree. Pursuant to Pa. R.A.P. 2744, an appellate court may award as further costs:

1. [A] reasonable counsel fee . . .

     if it determines that an appeal is frivolous or taken solely for delay or that the conduct of the participant against whom costs are to be imposed is dilatory, obdurate or vexatious. The appellate court may remand the case to the trial court to determine the amount of damages authorized by this rule.

Also see Gossman v. Lower Chanceford Township, 503 Pa. 392, 469 A.2d 996 (1983).

Appellant's brief herein is not only woefully inadequate, but also the record before us reveals that Appellant's conduct during this litigation has been consistently dilatory, obdurate and vexatious. Our review of the transcript before the trial court regarding the award of counsel fees reveals that Appellant demonstrated vexatious, dilatory, obdurate conduct with little regard for the law

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 411]

    and the courts. Thus, we will remand this matter to the trial court for a determination of reasonable counsel fees with regard to this appeal.*fn4

Accordingly, for the reasons set forth herein, Appellant's appeal is quashed and the matter herein is remanded to the trial court for a determination of reasonable counsel fees as requested by Appellee.*fn5

Order

And Now, this 27th day of March, 1989, the appeal in the above-captioned matter is quashed and the matter is remanded to the trial court for a determination of reasonable counsel fees to be paid to the Estate of Paul Ciaffoni, Deceased, by Appellant Robert J. Ciaffoni.

Jurisdiction relinquished.

Disposition

Appeal quashed. Case remanded.


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