Apollo Borough taxpayers will be burdened to pay for a second brief after Solicitor failed to follow the Rules of Appellate Procedure of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, second filing also falls short.
After receiving a May 12, 2021 Order issued by Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas Judge Chase G. McClister, the Appellants filed an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The Court ordered that the Appellants file a brief and reproduced record by September 27, 2021. Hours of mental work, toner, and paper amounted to over 900 pages in total to properly present our appeal to the Honorable Commonwealth Court. Hours of pouring over court procedure, protocol, and strictly adhering to the Conformance of Requirements for Appellant Briefs logged well over 72 hours of work. The Court also required us to file four (4) paper copies as well. Why all the sweat, time, and emotion to prepare? Because the Appellants cared enough to present a brief that was worthy and showed our due diligence in respecting the Commonwealth Court and the Rule of Law. In total, we shipped off a banker's box filled with over 3600 pages and weighing nearly 30 pounds.
Once the Appellant's brief was received by the Commonwealth Court, Apollo Borough was ordered to file their Reply Brief by November 1, 2021. Much to our surprise (because the Borough and its' solicitor love to ask for continuances), the Borough filed its brief on October 29, 2021, two days early!
So little time, thought, energy, and care was taken by Apollo Borough's solicitor, they would have been better off asking for a continuance. The brief was so bad, not only in format and substance, the Commonwealth Court rejected it. Why you ask? The Solicitor didn't care enough to adhere to Commonwealth Court standards such as font size, line spacing, or margins. The Solicitor didn't care enough about Apollo Borough taxpayers, and chose not to cite any case law, provide a table of contents, or summarize Apollo Borough's arguments. Despite this, the Solicitor must have been very proud of his effort because instead of filing the required four (4) bound copies with the Court, the Solicitor remitted fifteen (15) copies. Hmmm, wonder what that cost the Borough taxpayers?
In a sense, filing such an error filled brief was like asking for an extension, because the Court granted the Borough an extra 15 days to file the Amended Brief. I have to give credit where credit is due, though. The Borough beat the fifteen-day deadline by filing the new and improved brief on November 12, 2021, instead of November 15th. Apollo Borough should have taken better care and showed more respect, by providing due diligence to the standards of the Commonwealth Court, instead of rushing another work product of poor construction paid for the Apollo Borough taxpayers.
Here's the thing peeps. The new and improved brief, which again, the Apollo Borough taxpayers are going to have to pay for, is just about as lousy as the first one. Sure, the Borough chose a case to use, Uniontown Newspaper, Inc. v. PA Dept. of Corrections, 185 A.3rd 1161, 1170-71 (Pa. Commw. Ct. (2018), aff'd 243 A.3rd 19 (Pa. 2020)). However, the Borough chose not to cite anything from the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law. Instead, the Borough chose to cite case law from a case that mirrors our appeal, and helped our brief?! Also, the Solicitor, who has over 25 years experience failed to include a Certificate of Service, or file a copy with me (Hubs got a copy though) this is how little he cares. We (the Appellants) have been seeking justice for over two and a half years now. Is this sloppiness, ignorance, laziness, or plain carelessness? ***News flash*** We finally got a copy of that certificate, and the Solicitor omitted my personal address from the certificate. Yes - you read that correctly. SMH. It begs the question - did the solicitor perform this work, or did someone else less qualified?
After having a good laugh reading this, Hubs and I had to decide if we wanted to write a Reply Brief. The debate was really - how do we even respond to something like this? After all, the Borough's Brief was just a 9-page rehashing of Judge McClister's opinion. They didn't cite anything in the actual Right-to-Know Law to use as a defense. Well, the reason is, there is nothing in that law that either the Judge or the Borough can use to defend their position. After all, that's why we filed the appeal in the first place.
We believed we may as well respond. We felt that we should write a reply brief. Nothing left to lose, right? It couldn't hurt us either so we filed our Reply Brief on November 22, 2021. With a mix of case law and subtle imagery, we hope the Court understands the picture that we painted for them. It's actually a very good read to boot and we are happy with it. Despite this emotional release, we still only filed four copies with the Court, not fifteen. <Big Grins>
When the taxpayers for Apollo Borough wonder why (as of the July 22, 2021 Borough Council meeting), the Borough has spent over $60,000 in these cases, it is because of the inefficient use of the court system by the Solicitor. This case came from one simple request, copies of emails from one of the Borough's third-party contractors. The Borough forced us to appeal the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records decision, made us go to Court twice over it, file multiple briefs, and now - appeal to the Commonwealth Court. Access to public records should not be this difficult. Unfortunately for all of us taxpayers in Apollo Borough, we must all pay the price for their Solicitor's ineptness, and/or greed. One thing that all that money that the solicitor charges the taxpayers can't buy is caring - about your work product, your clients, your profession, the Rule of Law, or the Court.