January 10, 2014
KERIA L. CAIN, Appellant,
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE APPEAL BOARD, Appellee.
Submitted: October 28, 2013
Upon Appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.
Ms. Keria L. Cain, Wilmington, Delaware, Appellant, pro se.
James T. Wakley, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Appellee Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.
Richard R. Cooch, R.J.
This 10th day of January 2014, upon consideration of Appellant's Appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, it appears to the Court that:
1. Appellant Keria Cain ("Appellant") worked as a teacher for Foulk Preschool & Daycare Center ("Employer") from June 1, 2010 until August 21, 2012. On August 21, 2012, Appellant left her position and did not return to work. There is some dispute as to whether or not she provided proper notice.
2. On September 30, 2012, Appellant applied for unemployment benefits. On October 19, 2012, a claims deputy granted benefits because Appellant had "voluntarily quit [her] work for good cause attributable to [her] work" and had "exhaust[ed] all administrative remedies before leaving [her] employment." Employer timely appealed the decision.
3. On November 26, 2012, an Appeals Referee heard Employer's appeal. Appellant did "not appear[ ] either in person or by telephone." The Appeals Referee proceeded with the appeal and subsequently reversed the claims deputy's decision. The Appeals Referee held "[Appellant] abandoned her job, voluntarily quitting without good cause under the code." Appellant timely appealed the decision to the Board.
4. The Board scheduled Appellant's appeal for February 13, 2013 and Appellant received proper notice of the Board hearing's date, time, and location. Despite Appellant's failure to attend the hearing, the Board accepted Appellant's reason for her absence and remanded the case back to the Appeals Referee. Appellant was again notified of the new Appeals Hearing's date, time, and location.
5. On March 4, 2013 the Appeals Referee dismissed Appellant's claim because she again failed to attend the hearing to prosecute her claim.Appellant timely appealed, citing issues with her transportation.
6. The Board denied Appellant's request for a new hearing and held "[t]he Board exercised [its] discretion in [Appellant's] case once, and [Appellant], having missed the first Referee hearing, failed to appear at a second Referee hearing.…Taking the wrong bus or getting off at the wrong stop is not relevant. There is no evidence of Department error."Appellant timely appealed the Board's decision to this Court.
7. On July 5, 2013, Appellant submitted her Opening Brief. The brief did not address the issue for which her claim was dismissed: her failure to attend the Appeals Referee hearings to prosecute her claim. Instead, the brief mostly focused on Appellant's substantive claims.
8. On appeal, the Board advised the Court that it would not file an Answering Brief because Appellant's Opening Brief did not address the basis for the Board's decision, and the Board believes their decision in the matter is "sufficient response to the claims raised by [Appellant]."
9. Employer filed an Answering Brief at the Court's request on October 16, 2013. Employer argued, in part, that "[Appellant] had four chances to bring [her concerns] up for discussion at the Department of Labor Hearings, but she never showed up at any of them. We attended all four of the Hearings. Clearly, [Appellant] must not have deemed them that important."
10.Appellant failed to file a Reply Brief in compliance with the briefing schedule sent from the Prothonotary by letter on June 19, 2013.
11. Dismissal is appropriate under Superior Court Civil Rule 72(i) because Appellant failed to file an appropriate Opening Brief (i.e., one that addressed the issue of her failure to appear at various hearings) and no Reply Brief. Appellant did not address her failure to attend the Appeals Referee hearings to prosecute her claim, thereby ignoring the basis of the Board's decision in her appeal.
12."The Court recognizes that some leniency may be given to a pro se party in order to assume that a case is fully heard. However, at a minimum a pro se appellant's 'brief[ ] must be adequate to enable an appellate court to conduct a meaningful review of the merits of the appellant's claims.'" By failing to address the basis on which her claim was dismissed, the Appellant has failed to meet that standard.
13. Assuming, arguendo, that Appellant's brief was satisfactory, dismissal is still appropriate. The Court must uphold the Board's decision absent an error of law or abuse of discretion. Also, judicial review is not available until the Appellant exhausts all of her administrative remedies. The Board dismissed Appellant's appeal because she did not attend her Appeals Hearing, despite being given an earlier remand for a similar absence. The Court sees no abuse of discretion or error of law.
Therefore, the Board's decision is AFFIRMED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.