Every brief submitted for filing in the Pennsylvania Supreme, Commonwealth, and Superior courts must “comply in substance and form” with the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure (Pa. R.A.P.). See Pa. R.A.P. 2101. While the court is permitted to waive nonconformity “depending on the circumstances of the individual case, or as justice may require,” failure of a brief to conform to the applicable rules may result in sanctions, including dismissal of the action. Id.

The following guide is intended to provide practitioners and the public with an overview of the substance and form requirements for briefs as set forth in Chapter 21 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure (Pa. R.A.P. 2101-2189). You should always consult any applicable briefing orders issued by the court, as well as the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure for rule amendments prior to filing. Specific questions regarding the preparation and filing of briefs should be directed to the court’s prothonotary.

Length of Briefs (Pa. R.A.P. 2135)

The below chart sets forth the general brief length requirements applicable to appellate and original jurisdiction actions before the appellate courts. For length requirements applicable to Capital Direct and Capital Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) appeals, refer to Pa. R.A.P. 2135(a)(3), (4).

Principal Briefs 14,000 words
Reply Briefs 7,000 words
Cross-appeals ONLY
1st Brief of Designated Appellee
2nd Brief of Designated Appellant
16,500 words

A party is required to file a certificate of compliance with the word count limit if the principal brief is longer than 30 pages; the reply brief is longer than 15 pages; or, if the first brief of the designated appellee and second brief of the designated appellant in a cross appeal is longer than 35 pages.

The following portions of the brief do not count towards the word limit:

  1. Cover page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Table of Authorities
  4. Proof of Service
  5. Signature blocks
  6. Addendums and/or attachments expressly permitted by the appellate rules (e.g., certificates of compliance)

Formatting Briefs (Pa. R.A.P. 124)

Briefs filed in Pennsylvania appellate courts are subject to the following formatting requirements:

Paper size: 8 1/2 inch by 11 inch pages
Paper color: White
Margins: The first page must contain a three-inch space from the top of the document. Otherwise, margins must be at least one inch on all four sides.
Font size: No smaller than 14-point in the text and 12-point in footnotes.
Font style: The rule requires a clear and legible font.
The Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth Courts use Arial, Verdana, and Times New Roman, respectively, for their opinions. “A brief using the respective court’s font is preferred, but a brief using any of these fonts will be satisfactory.” See Pa. R.A.P. 124 (note).
Record References: References in the briefs to parts of the reproduced record must be in the following form: “(R.[page number]a).”
If references are made in the briefs to parts of the original record not reproduced, the references must specify the item referenced, e.g., ‘‘(Answer p. 7),’’ ‘‘(Motion for Summary Judgment p. 2),’’ ‘‘(Transcript p. 279-280),’’ ‘‘(Notes of Testimony p. 24-26).’’
If references are made in the briefs to parts of the original record not reproduced and the court or other government unit has provided a numbered certified record, the references must be to the certified record pages, e.g. ‘‘(Certified Record pp. 26-27).’’

Contents of Appellant’s/Petitioner’s Principal Brief (Pa. R.A.P. 2111)

An appellant’s/petitioner’s principal brief must include the following sections, in order:

  1. Cover Page (Pa. R.A.P. 2172)
  2. Table of Contents (Pa. R.A.P. 2174)
  3. Table of Authorities (Pa. R.A.P. 2174)
  4. Statement of Jurisdiction (Pa. R.A.P. 2114)
  5. Order or other determination in question (Pa. R.A.P. 2115)
  6. Statement of the Scope and Standard of Review (Pa. R.A.P. 2111)
  7. Statement of the Questions involved (Pa. R.A.P. 2116)
  8. Statement of the Case (Pa. R.A.P. 2117)
  9. Summary of Argument (Pa. R.A.P. 2118)
  10. Argument for Appellant (Pa. R.A.P. 2119)
  11. A short conclusion stating the relief sought

Required Attachments to Appellant’s/Petitioner’s Brief

The following items must be attached to the brief; no other attachments are permitted absent leave of court:

  1. All opinions from all court and/or administrative proceedings below which relate to the determination to be reviewed. See R.A.P. 2111(b).
  1. Certificates of compliance as required by Pa. R.A.P. 127 and Pa. R.A.P. 2135.
  1. Proof of Service.

Note: For many dockets, the proof of service attachment will be generated by the PACFile (e-filing) system.

Note: In original jurisdiction cases, any pleadings relevant to the case or from which a question for review arises must be appended to the brief. See Pa. R.A.P. 2111(c).

Contents of Appellee’s/Respondent’s Brief (Pa. R.A.P. 2112)

An appellee’s/respondent’s principal brief must include the following sections, in order:

  1. Cover Page (Pa. R.A.P. 2172)
  2. Table of Contents (Pa. R.A.P. 2174)
  3. Table of Authorities (Pa. R.A.P. 2174)
  4. Summary of Argument (Pa. R.A.P. 2118)
  5. Argument for Appellee (Pa. R.A.P. 2119)

To the extent an appellee/respondent disagrees with the appellant’s/petitioner’s recitation in its principal brief, an appellee’s/respondent’s principal brief may also include the following sections:

  1. Counter-Statement of the Questions involved
  2. Counter-Statement of the Case

Reply Briefs (Pa. R.A.P. 2113)

An appellant/petitioner may file a reply brief limited to  a response to issues argued in the appellee’s/respondent’s brief that were not raised in appellant’s/petitioner’s opening brief.

Note: In cross-appeals, an appellee/respondent may file a similarly limited reply brief. See Pa.R.A.P. 2136.

No other briefs are permitted without leave of Court.

Intervenor’s Brief (Pa. R.A.P. 2102)

For purposes of briefing and argument, intervenors are subject to the rules applicable to the party on whose side the intervenor is principally aligned. An intervenor may adopt by reference any part of the brief of another party.

Additional Resources

For more information regarding the preparation and filing of briefs in Pennsylvania appellate courts, including court-specific requirements, refer to the links below:


Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure

PACFile – for e-filing in the Supreme, Commonwealth, and Superior courts

West’s Pennsylvania Appellate Practice

Supreme Court

Supreme Court Prothonotary Contact Information

Supreme Court Copy & Fee Requirements

Commonwealth Court

Commonwealth Court Prothonotary Contact Information

Commonwealth Court Copy & Fee Requirements

Superior Court

Superior Court Prothonotary Contact Information

Superior Court Copy & Fee Requirements

About the Author:

Melissa Chapaska, attorney at Hawke, McKeon & Sniscak, LLP, represents clients in appellate matters before state agencies and courts.  Her practice focuses primarily on administrative litigation, appeals, and transactional drafting.  Prior to joining the firm, Melissa interned with the United States Department of Justice and Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.