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234 Pa. Code Rule 120. Attorneys—Appearances and Withdrawals.

PART B. Counsel

Rule 120. Attorneys—Appearances and Withdrawals.


   (1)  Counsel for defendant shall file an entry of appearance with the clerk of courts promptly after being retained, and serve a copy of the entry of appearance on the attorney for the Commonwealth.

     (a)   If a firm name is entered, the name of an individual lawyer shall be designated as being responsible for the conduct of the case.

     (b)   The entry of appearance shall include the attorney’s address, phone number, and attorney ID number.

   (2)  When counsel is appointed pursuant to Rule 122 (Appointment of Counsel), the filing of the appointment order shall enter the appearance of appointed counsel.

   (3)  Counsel shall not be permitted to represent a defendant following a preliminary hearing unless an entry of appearance is filed with the clerk of courts.

     (4)   An attorney who has been retained or appointed by the court shall continue such representation through direct appeal or until granted leave to withdraw by the court pursuant to paragraph (B).


   (1)  Counsel for a defendant may not withdraw his or her appearance except by leave of court.

   (2)  A motion to withdraw shall be:

     (a)   filed with the clerk of courts, and a copy concurrently served on the attorney for the Commonwealth and the defendant; or

     (b)   made orally on the record in open court in the presence of the defendant.

     (3)   Upon granting leave to withdraw, the court shall determine whether new counsel is entering an appearance, new counsel is being appointed to represent the defendant, or the defendant is proceeding without counsel.


   Representation as used in this rule is intended to cover court appearances or the filing of formal motions. Investigation, interviews, or other similar pretrial matters are not prohibited by this rule.

   For admission pro hac vice, see Pa.B.A.R. 301.

   An attorney may not represent a defendant in a capital case unless the attorney meets the educational and experiential requirements set forth in Rule 801 (Qualifications for Defense Counsel in Capital Cases).

   Paragraph (A)(2) was added in 2005 to make it clear that the filing of an order appointing counsel to represent a defendant enters the appearance of appointed counsel. Appointed counsel does not have to file a separate entry of appearance. Rule 122 (Appointment of Counsel) requires that (1) the judge include in the appointment order the name, address, and phone number of appointed counsel, and (2) the order be served on the defendant, appointed counsel, the previous attorney of record, if any, and the attorney for the Commonwealth pursuant to Rule 114 (Orders and Court Notices: Filing; Service; and Docket Entries).

   Under paragraph (B)(2), counsel must file a motion to withdraw in all cases, and counsel’s obligation to represent the defendant, whether as retained or appointed counsel, remains until leave to withdraw is granted by the court. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Librizzi, 810 A.2d 692 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002). The court must make a determination of the status of a case before permitting counsel to withdraw. Although there are many factors considered by the court in determining whether there is good cause to permit the withdrawal of counsel, when granting leave, the court should determine whether new counsel will be stepping in or the defendant is proceeding without counsel, and that the change in attorneys will not delay the proceedings or prejudice the defendant, particularly concerning time limits. In addition, case law suggests other factors the court should consider, such as whether (1) the defendant has failed to meet his or her financial obligations to pay for the attorney’s services and (2) there is a written contractual agreement between counsel and the defendant terminating representation at a specified stage in the proceedings such as sentencing. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Roman. Appeal of Zaiser, 549 A.2d 1320 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1988).

   If a post-sentence motion is filed, trial counsel would normally be expected to stay in the case until disposition of the motion under the post-sentence procedures adopted in 1993. See Rules 704 and 720. Traditionally, trial counsel stayed in a case through post-verdict motions and sentencing.

   For the filing and service procedures, see Rules 575-576.

   For waiver of counsel, see Rule 121.

   For the procedures for appointment of counsel, see Rule 122.

   See Rule 904(A) that requires an attorney who has been retained to represent a defendant during post-conviction collateral proceedings to file a written entry of appearance.

   Official Note

   Adopted June 30, 1964, effective January 1, 1965; formerly Rule 303, renumbered Rule 302 and amended June 29, 1977 and November 22, 1977, effective as to cases in which the indictment or information is filed on or after January 1, 1978; amended March 22, 1993, effective January 1, 1994; renumbered Rule 120 and amended March 1, 2000, effective April 1, 2001; Comment revised February 26, 2002, effective July 1, 2002; Comment revised June 4, 2004, effective November 1, 2004; amended April 28, 2005, effective August 1, 2005; amended December 10, 2013, effective February 10, 2014.

   Committee Explanatory Reports:

   Final Report explaining the March 22, 1993 amendments published with the Court’s Order at 23 Pa.B. 1699 (April 10, 1993).

   Final Report explaining the March 1, 2000 reorganization and renumbering of the rules published with the Court’s Order at 30 Pa.B. 1478 (March 18, 2000).

   Final Report explaining the February 26, 2002 Comment revision adding the cross-reference to Rule 904 published with the Court’s Order at 32 Pa.B. 1393 (March 16, 2002).

   Final Report explaining the April 28, 2005 amendments concerning the filing of an appointment order as entry of appearance for appointed counsel and withdrawal of counsel published with the Court’s Order at 35 Pa.B. 2859 (May 14, 2005).

   Final Report explaining the December 10, 2013 change to the Comment published with the Court’s Order at 43 Pa.B. 7546 (December 28, 2013).


   The provisions of this Rule 120 amended February 26, 2002, effective July 1, 2002, 32 Pa.B. 1391; amended June 4, 2004, effective November 1, 2004, 34 Pa.B. 3105; amended April 28, 2005, effective August 1, 2005, 35 Pa.B. 2855; amended December 10, 2013, effective February 10, 2014, 43 Pa.B. 7545. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (363562), (360827) to (360828) and (356639).

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