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The sixth amendment guarantees to criminal defendants the right to assistance of counsel. Criminal defendants do, however, have the right to waive such assistance and appear pro se. In order for a criminal defendant to proceed pro see, the court will often have a hearing to determine whether the defendant is aware of the significance of doing so and can adequately represent himself or herself.
In civil cases, litigants have a statutory right, first embodied in the Judiciary Act of 1789, to represent themselves. Typically, if there was previously an attorney on the record as representing a party, the attorney will file a notice of withdrawal with the court and the party may proceed pro se without the permission of the court.
The following is an appellate court rule for MA:
RULE 15. MOTIONS
(a) Content of Motions; Response; Reply.
Unless another form is elsewhere prescribed by these rules, an
application for an order or other relief shall be made by filing a motion
for such order or relief with proof of service on all other parties. The
motion shall contain or be accompanied by any matter required by a
specific provision of these rules governing such a motion, shall state
with particularity the grounds on which it is based, and shall set forth
the order or relief sought. If a motion is supported by briefs,
affidavits, or other papers, they shall be served and filed with the
motion. Any party may file a response in opposition to a motion other
than one for a procedural order (for which see subdivision (b)) within 7
days after service of the motion, but motions authorized by Rule 6 may be
acted upon after reasonable notice, and the appellate court or a single
justice may shorten or extend the time for responding to any motion.
(b) Determination of Motions for Procedural Orders.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraph as to motions
generally, motions for procedural orders, including any motion under Rule
14(b), may be acted upon at any time, without awaiting a response
thereto. Any party adversely affected by such action may request
reconsideration, vacation, or modification of such action.
(c) Power of a Single Justice to Entertain Motions.
In addition to the authority expressly conferred by these rules or by
law, a single justice may entertain and may grant or deny any request for
relief which under these rules may properly be sought by motion, except
that a single justice may not dismiss or otherwise determine an appeal or
other proceeding, and except that the appellate court may provide by
order or rule that any motion or class of motions shall be acted upon by
the appellate court. The action of a single justice may be reviewed by
the appellate court.
(d) Motions for New Trial in Capital Cases.
After the docketing of an appeal in a criminal case in which the
defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and until the
filing of a rescript by the appellate court, a motion for a new trial
pursuant to Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure 30 shall be filed in
the appellate court and may be remitted to the trial judge for hearing
and determination at such time as the appellate court may direct.
(e) Change of Counsel on Appeal in Criminal and Certain Non-criminal
If the defendant in a criminal case or any party in any other
proceeding, excluding child welfare cases, in which counsel is required to
be made available to such party pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule
3:10 was represented by counsel at trial, trial counsel shall continue to
represent that party on appeal until the trial court permits him to
withdraw his appearance and until an appearance is filed by substitute
counsel. If trial counsel wishes to withdraw, he shall, on the day upon
which the notice of appeal is filed, file a motion to withdraw. Any
motion under this provision shall be marked up by the trial counsel for
hearing no later than seven days after filing. If the motion to withdraw
is allowed, the judge shall assign the Committee for Public Counsel
Services to provide representation according to the procedures
established in Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:10.