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Pennsylvania Appellate Law and Practice

Oral Argument

Oral argument is "[a]n advocate's spoken presentation before a court (esp. an appellate court) supporting or opposing the legal relief at issue." Oral Argument, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

In Pennsylvania, oral argument is not guaranteed at the appellate level. This is generally laid out in the court rules. See, for example:

"Oral argument is not a matter of right and will be permitted only to the extent necessary to enable the appellate court to acquire an understanding of the issues presented. The presiding judge may terminate the argument for any party notwithstanding the fact that the maximum time for argument specified in the applicable provision of these rules has not been exhausted." Pa.R.A.P. 2315(a).

Secondary sources often provide additional guidance. See, for example:

"Where an appellant has filed the requisite record and brief addressing the issue decided by the trial court, the failure to appear at oral argument does not constitute a waiver of the case; in the discretion of the court, not all cases are orally argued." Standard Pennsylvania Practice 2d § 90:16.

Many of the resources listed below provide additional information, including explanations and citations to relevant cases, on oral argument. It may also be beneficial to consult the statutes and caselaw. See the Court Rules, Statutes, and Caselaw page of this guide for more information.

Treatises and Practice Aids

The following print resources include information regarding oral argument. Some resources published by LexisNexis and West/Thomson Reuters may be available on the library's Lexis and Westlaw computers. See below for more information.

The chapters/sections listed below are included as a starting place for that resource. Additional chapters/sections may apply. Consult the index or conduct a search in the resource to find additional material.

Pennsylvania Appellate Practice West/Thomson Reuters
Also on the library's Westlaw computers. Also referred to as Darlington.
See Chapter 23: Sessions and Argument.

Pennsylvania Civil Practice Handbook Bisel
See § 37.10: Argument.

Standard Pennsylvania Practice 2d West/Thomson Reuters
Also on the library's Westlaw computers.
See Chapter 90: Appellate Hearing.

In conjunction with its continuing legal education courses, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) produces books covering various appellate practice topics. Some of these concentrate on more specific or unusual areas of the law. When a researcher has difficulty finding an answer in the manuals or form books, it is a good idea to turn to a PBI publication for guidance.

Advanced Appellate Advocacy
See Chapter 2: Oral Argument Before Pennsylvania Appellate Courts.

Appellate Advocacy in PA State Courts
See Chapter 2: Oral Advocacy - From the Court's Perspective.

How to Appeal a Commercial Case in the PA Courts
See Chapter C: Oral Argument in Commercial Cases - Pennsylvania Appellate Courts.

Winning (or Not Losing) Your Case on Appeal
See Chapter 5: Effective Use of Oral Argument.

Court Rules

When participating in a court case, it is important to follow the correct set of court rules. The Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure (Pa.R.A.P.) are freely available online in Title 210 of the Pennsylvania Code. Select rules address oral argument. Please note that additional rules may also apply.

Pa.R.A.P. Chapter 23 (R. 2301-2323) - Session and Argument


Internal Operating Procedures to the Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth Courts may provide additional information or guidance. Please note that additional I.O.P.s may also apply.

For additional places to find Pennsylvania Court Rules, including in print and on the library's Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law computers, see the Pennsylvania Court Rules - State guide.