Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure: A Look at Amendments Mandating Shorter Briefs

Jason Augustine, Esq. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopted amendments to Rules 124 and 2135 which fundamentally alter the drafting of briefs in all state appellate courts. Most significantly, the new amendments replace the page limits currently applicable to appellate briefs with various maximum word-count limits. The key provisions are as follows:

The length of all briefs are now governed by a word-count instead of page limits;

Both the Appellant’s opening brief and the Appellee’s brief are restricted to 14,000 words or less. This is for all text following the tables, through to the signature line. It includes footnotes. Reply briefs are limited to 7,000 words.

In cross-appeals (as determined under Pa. R.A.P. 2136), both the second and third filings have word counts of 16,500 words. Thus, the opening brief, filed by the designated Appellant, is 14,000 words, and the response to that brief, filed by the designated Appellee, is 16,500 words. The Appellant then has 16,500 words to reply to that brief, and the final brief, filed by the Appellee (the 4th filing), is limited to 7,000 words.

The margin requirements are unchanged, at least one inch on all sides.

Three font styles are accepted: Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman. All text is required to be no smaller than 14-point (12-point for footnotes).

These amendments take effect for all appellate level cases initiated after May 26, 2013. The changes come after several years of discussion among the courts and the state bar association. This puts Pennsylvania more in line with the federal Circuit Courts, and reinforces the Courts’ preference for only clear and concise issues raised on appeal and for compact briefing of those issues. Under the old rules, a 14,000-word brief, with one inch margins, would comprise between 42-and-47 pages (depending on the formatting of section breaks).

The section of a brief most affected by the new rules is the Statement of Questions Presented. In the old rules, this section was limited to two pages; that limit no longer applies. However, the Courts maintain a strong preference for questions presented to be clear, concise and compact.

Please contact me with any questions regarding preparing and filing any appeal. Counsel Press provides a full spectrum of appellate services. My colleagues and I at our Philadelphia office specialize in rule-compliant appellate filings in the United States Court of Appeals for the First, Third and Fifth Circuits, Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the United States Supreme Court.

Read related articles:
Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure: What is the Purpose of the Docketing Statement?
Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure: Did You Appeal From a Final Order?

Tagged: Appellate Practice, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Appellate Procedure, Superior Court of Pennsylvania