|STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA COUNTY OF OCONEE IN THE MATTER OF: DOYLE ELTON PIERCE, DECEASED DOROTHY PIERCE (Appellant) vs. JARED ADAM PIERCE Respondent)||IN THE CIRCUIT COURT Appeal from Probate Court for Oconee County CASE NO.: NOTICE OF INTENT TO APPEAL TO THE CIRCUIT COURT|
Pursuant to SCPC 62-1-308, Appellant hereby provides his Notice of Appellant’s Intent to Appeal the Order of the Probate Court [ENTER DATE OF ORDER]. Said Order was received by the Appellant on [ENTER DATE YOU RECEIVED ORDER]. A copy of said Final Order is attached.
Dorothy Pierce, Appellant, pro se.
SWORN before me this _________
Day of ____________, 2021.
Notary Public for: _______________
My Commission expires: ____________
|STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA COUNTY OF OCONEE IN THE MATTER OF: DOYLE ELTON PIERCE, DECEASED DOROTHY PIERCE (Appellant) vs. JARED ADAM PIERCE Respondent)||IN THE CIRCUIT COURT Appeal from Probate Court for Oconee County CASE NO.: APPEAL BRIEF|
TABLE OF CONTENTS
STATEMENT OF ISSUES ON APPEAL.. 6
I. THE JUDGE’S CONDUCT AMOUNTED TO JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT. 11
II. THE JUDGE’S CONDUCT VIOLATED APPELLANT’S RIGHTS. 12
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES
Clear Channel Outdoor V. City Of Myrtle Beach, 372 S.C. 230, 235, 642 S.E.2d 565, 567 (2007)…… 12
Howard V. Mutz, 315 S.C. 356, 361-62, 434 S.E.2d 254, 257-58 (1993)…………………………………………. 6
In Re Duncan, 83 S.C. 186, 65 S.E. 210 (1909)………………………………………………………………………….. 11
In Re Estate Of Kay, 423 S.C. 476, 816 S.E.2d 542 (2018)……………………………………………………………. 7
In Re Gravely, ___ S.C. ___, 467 S.E.2d 924 (1996)…………………………………………………………………… 11
Kurschner V. City Of Camden Planning Comm’n, 376 S.C. 165, 171, 656 S.E.2d 346, 350 (2008)…… 12
Mathews E. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332, 96 S. Ct. 893, 47 L. Ed. 2d 18 (1976)…………………………… 12
Moore V. Moore, 376. S.C. 467, 657 S.E.2d. 743 (2008)…………………………………………………………….. 12
Morrissey V. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 481, 92 S. Ct. 2593, 2600, 33 L. Ed. 2d 484, 494 (1972)……………. 13
Nationsbank Of S.C. V. Greenwood, 321 S.C. 386, 392, 468 S.E.2d 658, 662 (Ct. App. 1996)………….. 7
S.C. Dept. Of Soc. Servs. V. Beeks, 325 S.C. 243, 246, 481 S.E.2d 703, 705 (1997)……………………….. 13
Sloan V. S.C. Bd. Of Physical Therapy Examr’., 370 S.C. 452, 483, 636 S.E.2d 598, 614 (2006);……. 12
State Ex Rel. Daniel V. Wells, 191 S.C. 468, 5 S.E. (2d) 181 (1939)……………………………………………… 12
Townes Assocs. Ltd. V. City Of Greenville, 266 S.C. 81, 86, 221 S.E.2d 773, 775 (1976)………………….. 7
S.C.Code Ann. § 62-1-308(d) (1987). ………………………………………………………………………………………. 7
SC Code § 62-2-502 (2017)……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10
S.C. App. Ct. R. 7…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 11
STATEMENT OF ISSUES ON APPEAL
- DID THE JUDGE’S CONDUCT AMOUNTED TO JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT?
- DID THE JUDGE’S CONDUCT VIOLATE APPELLANT’S RIGHTS?
- DID THE JUDGE’S CONDUCT AMOUNT TO AN ABUSE OF THE COURT’S DISCRETION?
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
This case concerns the validity of a will made by the deceased, Doyle Elton Pierce. Accordingly, on August 18, 2021, a judgment in favor of the Respondent entitled “ORDER ON MOTION TO DETERMINE VALIDITY OF WILL” was signed by this Court in this case. The Appellant subsequently filed a Motion for a New Trial on August 23, 2021. Thereafter, Appellant filed an Amended Motion for a New Trial in lieu of the already filed Motion for New Trial.
On or about October 1, 2021, the Court conducted a hearing for Appellant’s Motion for New Trial. Consequently, the Court denied the said Motion. It is worth noting that the Judge was so unfair that he did not even respond to any of Appellant’s mails asking for a legal explanation to his denial of Appellant’s Motion. Besides, the said Judge signed an Order, which the Respondent drafted without Appellant’s knowledge.
Appellant hereby appeals the said Order.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The standard of review applicable to cases originating in the probate court is controlled by whether the underlying cause of action is at law or in equity. Howard v. Mutz, 315 S.C. 356, 361-62, 434 S.E.2d 254, 257-58 (1993). Appellant states that this is an action at law. NationsBank of S.C. v. Greenwood, 321 S.C. 386, 392, 468 S.E.2d 658, 662 (Ct. App. 1996) (holding an action to construe a will is an action at law). If a proceeding in the probate court is in the nature of an action at law, review by this court extends merely to the correction of legal errors. Townes Assocs. Ltd. v. City of Greenville, 266 S.C. 81, 86, 221 S.E.2d 773, 775 (1976), abrogated on other grounds by, In re Estate of Kay, 423 S.C. 476, 816 S.E.2d 542 (2018).
Further, the circuit court must hear and determine an appeal from the Probate Court “according to the rules of law.” S.C.Code Ann. § 62-1-308(d) (1987). This phrase means according to the rules governing appeals. Howard, 315 S.C. at 360, 434 S.E.2d at 257. On appeal from the final order of the probate court, the circuit court should apply the same standard of review that this court would apply on appeal. Id.
In November 2017, the Appellant was looking for a house to rent within Upstate South Carolina. Since the Appellant had a small manufacturing business, she had a second requirement: She wanted a house with a spare storage space for her manufacturing business. Craigslist was the only reliable platform to find houses for rent within the upstate community. She therefore searched several listings and the Deceased, Doyle Elton Pierce, had listed for rent, a room in his 3-bedroom brick house in a small city of Seneca, Oconee County, SC. After chatting with the Deceased, he had both a room for rent and approximately 5,000SF warehouse that the Appellant could lease for her business after cleaning up.
The Appellant met the Deceased in Greenville, SC. and they drove to Seneca to see the house. Upon arriving at the deceased’s home, the Appellant discovered that the Deceased had the dirtiest and the most disorganized house and yard Appellant had ever set her eyes on her entire life. The house looked like it had never been cleaned up for a decade. The Deceased told Appellant that if she wanted to leave, he would understand. On the contrary, Appellant told him that she would still rent the room if the Deceased allowed her to clean up his entire house. He was excited. It took Appellant fifteen days to clean the house including arranging Appellant’s new room. During the clean-up, the Deceased helped the Appellant whenever he could. There were so many items to move to the dumpster. Sometimes the Deceased was running the skid steer while the Appellant loaded the trash on foot.
Two weeks later, the Deceased told the Appellant that he would have looked a thousand years and never found a woman like her. He asked Appellant to marry him, but he had not even asked her out on a date yet. Appellant told him to start from the beginning by asking her out on a date. The two joked and laughed about it. Subsequently, they went on series of “cleaning dates” and fell head over heels for each other. A few weeks later, Appellant also discovered that the Deceased had also earlier posted another ad on craigslist looking for a young woman to bear him children. He was abandoned by his own children and family, he said. The two got married on February 14, 2018.
The Appellant wondered why the Deceased wanted children at the age of 72, but the answer came in handy a few weeks later when the couple decided to visit the Deceased’s eldest son, Jared Adam Pierce, the Respondent. It was about 2:45pm in the afternoon when the Deceased knocked at his son’s door. The Respondent opened the door slightly and immediately asked his father “What? What do you want? The Deceased turned red and mumbled, “…I came to visit you, are you not going to let me in? “Hell no, go the F..k away.” Replied the Respondent. The Deceased left in shame. For a long time, the deceased never said much about the incident and never wanted to hear about the Respondent. It took several months before he would want to talk to his son again.
Accordingly, when the deceased forgave his son, the Respondent asked his father for a piece of land so his wife and he could buy a trailer and move in since they still rented their current house after losing their previous home to the Respondent’s gambling habits and liabilities. The Deceased, the Respondent, Respondent’s wife Sandy Phillips Pierce and Appellant went down to Cedar hill farm, where the Respondent picked the most expensive and best river front plot of land. He asked Deceased to cut the land and make the deed in his name, but the Deceased refused fearing that the Respondent would sell the land again once the deed was in his name. The Respondent could not build a house on his father’s land without a deed in his name since her never trusted his father enough. Doyle Elton Pierce willed the land and a trailer to Respondent on his last will and testament dated, July 7th, 2020.
The Deceased’s second “son”, Greg Alan Pierce never talked to his “father” for over 10 years. The deceased on the other hand, never wanted anything to do with his “son”. To Doyle Elton Pierce, his “son”, Greg Alan Pierce was Dead. Greg Pierce showed up in April 2020 when the Easter storm hit Seneca and destroyed almost everything the Deceased had worked for his entire life, three months before the Deceased passed away.
Within two weeks of helping with cleanup after the storm, Greg Pierce asked the Deceased for land and a favor to pay for a new trailer since he did not have any credit to buy one or a home. His credit was so bad that he could not get any mortgage or loan. He offered to pay the Deceased cash as his “father” paid the mortgage company. The Deceased and Greg Pierce rode on a 4-Wheeler to Cedar hill farm where Greg picked a river front plot of land adjacent to his brother Jared Adam Pierce.
Greg, however, also wanted his “father” to deed him the title to the land, but Doyle Elton Pierce refused claiming Greg Pierce only showed up when he needed something and vanished when he got it or didn’t get his way. Though the Deceased refused to deed his second “son” the land, he allowed him to build or use it. He however, refused to secure a mortgage on his “son’s” behalf but gave him an old trailer on 745 Mourning Dove Lane, where Greg’s daughter Samantha Leigh still lives in up to the time of this filing. The Deceased willed the land and the Trailer to his son on his last will and testament dated July 7, 2020.
For the last three years of the Deceased’s life, the Appellant was both light and hope to him. When everyone abandoned him, the Appellant accepted, respected, and loved him unconditionally irrespective of the fact that Appellant’s made more money than her husband. The Appellant was the only one available when the deceased needed someone. When he was sick, Appellant was always by his side. When he needed to go to the hospital for his appointments, it was Appellant who accompanied him. When his blood sugar dropped in the middle of the night, Appellant was the one that got up and made him something sweet to drink. When his sons humiliated him, it was Appellant who comforted him. When he was lonely, it was Appellant who gave him company. When he was happy, it was Appellant that he shared his joy with. When the Appellant got pregnant with the deceased miracle child and had a miscarriage, the Deceased was there for her.
On or about July 7th, 2020, the Deceased executed the last will and testament in compliance with SC Code § 62-2-502 (2017). Notably, the will was in writing and was signed by at least two individuals, each of whom witnessed either the signing or the testator’s acknowledgment of the signature or of the will. Three months later, the decedent died at Prisma hospital, Oconee County on September 14th, 2020, at the age of 74 years, 3 month, & 29 days.
On or about September 23rd, 2020, the Appellant was legally appointment Personal Representative of the Estate of Doyle Elton Pierce.
The Respondent contested the will and testament of the Deceased dated July 7, 2020, with the Probate Court. He relied on handwriting expert who used signature exhibits as old as 1971-2004, which are all against the basic rules and guidelines of modern document examination that require that the signature samples must be within the proximity of two years.
On or about November 05th, 2020, the Respondent’s Attorney Rick McDuff reported an incident case to Oconee County Sheriff Department on the account of counterfeiting/forgery. The sheriff department investigated the Appellant thoroughly and closed the investigation, after finding NO WRONGDOING on the part of the Appellant.
On or about August 2, 2021, the Probate Court ruled to set aside the will.
I. THE JUDGE’S CONDUCT AMOUNTED TO JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT
Under S.C. App. Ct. R. 7, a Judge is said to have committed misconduct and is therefore subject to discipline if the Judge: failed to uphold the integrity of the judiciary; fails to participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing high standards of conduct, and personally observing those standards; fails to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety; fails to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary; allows his relationships with others to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment; fails to perform the duties of the judicial office impartially; fails to be dignified and courteous to those with whom the judge deals in an official capacity and requiring similar conduct of persons subject to the judge’s discretion and control; and fails to perform his judicial duties without bias or prejudice and by failing to cooperate with other judges and court officials in the administration of court business.
South Carolina case law requires “[a] factual finding of judicial misconduct [to] be supported by clear and convincing evidence.” In re Gravely, ___ S.C. ___, 467 S.E.2d 924 (1996).
Appellant contends that the Judge’s actions as alleged in the “Statement of the Case” section of this Brief, constituted the practice of law, a violation of Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 5 F. The practice of law is not limited to “the conduct of cases in courts” but includes “all action taken for them in matters connected with the law.” In re Duncan, 83 S.C. 186, 65 S.E. 210 (1909). It is the character of the services rendered, not where they are rendered, which determines whether the acts constitute the practice of law. State ex rel. Daniel v. Wells, 191 S.C. 468, 5 S.E. (2d) 181 (1939).
In the instant action, the Judge was so unfair that he did not even respond to any of Appellant’s mails asking for a legal explanation to his denial of Appellant’s Motion. Besides, the said Judge signed an Order, which the Respondent drafted without Appellant’s knowledge. Although it is not be express sole object of this Appeal to have the Judge disciplined, Appellant avers that the Judge’s misconduct affected the validity of the Order issued by the Judge, which Order was issued without considering Appellant’s case, and without giving any reason of the denial to Appellant.
II.THE JUDGE’S CONDUCT VIOLATED APPELLANT’S RIGHTS
“Procedural due process imposes constraints on governmental decisions which deprive individuals of liberty or property interests within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” Kurschner v. City of Camden Planning Comm’n, 376 S.C. 165, 171, 656 S.E.2d 346, 350 (2008).
“Procedural due process requires (1) adequate notice; (2) adequate opportunity to be heard; (3) the right to introduce evidence; and (4) the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.” Moore v. Moore, 376. S.C. 467, 657 S.E.2d. 743 (2008). See also Clear Channel Outdoor v. City of Myrtle Beach, 372 S.C. 230, 235, 642 S.E.2d 565, 567 (2007). The right to a notice and reasons for the decision is also protected under due process.
“In order to prove a denial of substantive due process, a party must show that he was arbitrarily and capriciously deprived of a cognizable property interest footed in state law.” Sloan v. S.C. Bd. of Physical Therapy Examr’., 370 S.C. 452, 483, 636 S.E.2d 598, 614 (2006); see Mathews e. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332, 96 S. Ct. 893, 47 L. Ed. 2d 18 (1976) (recognizing that before due process *473 guarantees are implicated, there must be a deprivation by the government of constitutionally protected interest).
“Due process is flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands.” Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 481, 92 S. Ct. 2593, 2600, 33 L. Ed. 2d 484, 494 (1972). The requirements in a particular case depend on the importance of the interest involved and the circumstances under which the deprivation may occur. S.C. Dept. of Soc. Servs. v. Beeks, 325 S.C. 243, 246, 481 S.E.2d 703, 705 (1997).
In the instant action, the Judge failed to give reasons for the denial of Appellant’s Motion. Appellant is entitled, under the due process rights, to notice and reasons for the decision of the Court. Besides, the Appellant’s due process rights guaranteed Appellant’s right to a fair and/or impartial hearing; and to have an opportunity to be heard. Therefore, Appellant contends that the Judge ought to have provided Appellant sufficient notice and/or reasons of the Court’s decision. Instead, the Judge failed to respond to Appellant’s request(s) to provide the said decisions.
Based upon the foregoing arguments, and each of them, it is clear that Justice will not be properly served unless a new trial is granted. Accordingly, the Appellant prays that the Court reverses the judgment of the Probate Court; and in the interest of justice, remand the case with further instructions.
Dorothy Pierce, Appellant, pro se
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that, on [ENTER DATE], a copy of the foregoing Notice of Appeal, and Appeal Brief was filed in this court. I further certify that on the said date, a copy of foregoing Notice of Appeal, and Appeal Brief were mailed by first-class U.S. Mail, postage prepaid, and properly addressed to the following: Richard H. McDuff, Esq. Merrell, Jahn & McDuff, P.A.119-B Professional Park Drive, Seneca, South Carolina 29678.
Dorothy Pierce, Appellant, pro se.
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