Written by Gregory Monte.
I love to read cases where a defendant represents himself pro se in court. It reminds me why I started this blog in the first place – to provide information to such individuals so that when they go before a judge they have a fighting chance to win.
Improbable Victory for Pro Se Defendant
Well, Christopher Courtley received a parking ticket in the Summer of 2016. Rather than simply pay the ticket and accept his fate, he decided to fight it out in court. When the magisterial judge (the first layer of justice in PA) found him guilty, he appealed. He was then scheduled to appear at the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas on July 13, 2016.
He overslept and missed his court date.
At this point, most of us would just give up and acknowledge defeat – but not Courtley. He actually showed up a week later and spoke to the judge.
“On July 20, 2016, Courtley appeared while the trial court was hearing other summary appeals. Courtley briefly explained why he failed to appear the previous week, stating that he overslept on his appointed court date because of a late night work delivery assignment.”
A typical judge would have absolutely no tolerance for this kind of lame excuse, but not in this case:
“Over the Commonwealth’s objection, the trial court vacated the July 13, 2016 order dismissing Courtley’s appeal and purported to find Courtley not guilty of the parking violation”
Talk about good luck!
The DA Exacts Revenge
You would think that our elected District Attorneys would have better things to do than worry about silly parking tickets, but not Michael Wayne Streily of Allegheny County, PA. Pissed off that he lost this case, he decided to waste time and county resources by appealing to the Superior Court.
Turns out, it worked out for Streily. In Commonwealth v. COURTLEY, Pa: Superior Court 2017, the judges agreed that the Court of Common Pleas incorrectly vacated its July 13 order and so it had to schedule a new trial for Courtley to determine if he was truly guilty of that parking violation:
“…the trial court erred by vacating its July 13 order. We remand for a hearing to determine if Courtley had cause for missing the July 13 trial de novo. If the trial court determines that Courtley showed cause, it should vacate its July 13 order and schedule a new trial de novo for some future date.”
The DA Chastised by the Court
But the best part of this opinion is the “tongue-lashing” that the court gave to this assistant district attorney, Mr. Streily, for using all capital letters in his brief:
“… we admonish the Commonwealth for its conduct in this appeal. In its brief, the Commonwealth twice shouts that, “NO TESTIMONY WAS TAKEN ON ANY ISSUE!!”
Referencing Alice Robb’s How Capital Letters Became Internet Code for Yelling it indicates in a footnote:
“There’s one convention that is incontestable: Typing in all caps is Internet code for shouting, and it is rude.”
Unfortunately for Courtley, when he did finally get to court the second time around he lost and was found guilty.
I wonder if the residents of Allegheny County would agree with Michael Wayne Streily that the time, effort and money he wasted was worth the price of a $50 parking ticket.