Trial Court's Sanction Authority for Not Filing a Brief In Time
In Byard F. Brogan, Inc. v. Holmes Electric Protective Co. of Philadelphia., 501 Pa. 234, 460 A.2d 1093 (1983), the court invalidated former Montgomery County Rule of Civil Procedure No. 302(d), which authorized the trial court to grant or dismiss motions, petitions or preliminary objections for a party's failure to timely file a brief.
The Court explained:
The trial of a lawsuit is not a sporting event where the substantive legal issues which precipitated the action are subordinate to the 'rules of the game.'
A lawsuit is a judicial process calculated to resolve legal disputes in an orderly and fair fashion. It is imperative that the fairness of the method by which the resolution is reached not be open to question. a rule which arbitrarily and automatically requires the termination of an action in favor of one party and against the other based upon a non-prejudicial procedural mis-step, without regard to the substantive merits and without regard to the reason for the slip, is inconsistent with the requirement of fairness demanded by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.
Rule 126 is not a judicial recommendation which a court may opt to recognize or ignore.
Rather the rule is a statement of the requirement of fairness and establishes an affirmative duty courts are bound to follow in applying all procedural rules whether they be statewide or local in origin. Id. at 240, 460 A.2d at 1096.
See also Davies v. SEPTA, 865 A.2d 290 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005) (the local rule allowing only seven days to respond to a motion for summary judgment was declared invalid as inconsistent with Pa. R.C.P. No. 1035.3(a) allowing thirty days to respond); Murphy v. Armstrong, 424 Pa. Super. 424, 622 A.2d 992 (Pa. Super. 1993) (the local rule permitting dismissal of an action for failure to file a brief in response to a demurrer violated Pa. R.C.P. No. 239(f) proscribing dismissal of an action for failure to comply with a local rule).