California’s Special Appearance in Court: What Is It and When Do You Need One

California's Special Appearance in Court: What Is It and When Do You Need One

By May 2018, the mean hourly wage for a lawyer in California was just over $82.

That makes California the second most expensive place to hire a lawyer in America. With such steep charges, you best make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Nowhere are the stakes higher than a special appearance in court. A small mistake has the potential to ruin the case for you.

Special Appearance vs General Appearance

A responding party must weigh their responses to court proceedings. When and how you respond can have irreversible effects on your case. You must be especially careful of how and when you file responsive documents and appear in court.

These two seemingly procedural responses are considered indicative of your consent to the court’s jurisdiction. That’s to say an uninformed appearance terminates all merit for challenging the process on grounds of the court’s lack of jurisdiction. You need to involve a certified law specialist before making any move.

We’ll delve deeper into legal specialization, but first- let’s differentiate special appearance from general appearance.

General Appearance

This is when the respondent takes an action that recognizes the authority of the relevant court. A general appearance in court waives the right to object on three grounds:

  • Defective process
  • Lack of personal jurisdiction
  • Defective service of process

That’s why you must consult an attorney before appearing in court. You may just throw out your easiest shots at terminating the proceedings. Read more on how to find the right lawyer for your case.

Special Appearance in Court

A special appearance in court raises objections to the court’s jurisdiction or legality of the process. In California, these two objections must be made in the earliest possible time. That’s to say a special appearance must always precede a general appearance unless all is good.  

Inquire from a law specialist before asking for any relief from the court. Any relief, other than to terminate proceedings, sought from the court is paramount to the approval of both jurisdiction and process. This article by Appearance Attorney gives an excellent strategy for picking the right lawyer for your special appearance in court.

Legal Specialization in California

  1. California’s Board of Legal Specialization makes it very easy to identify the relevant law specialists. Attorneys apply to the board and their applications are assessed on five main benchmarks:
  2. They have passed the relevant legal specialization written exam.
  3. They have practiced law for five years or more with 25% of that time dedicated to the relevant area of specialty.
  4. Continued education in the specialty area that surpasses California’s requirement for general license holders.
  5. Demonstrable experience in the specialty area.
  6. Favorable evaluations by both judges and attorneys familiar with the lawyers work in the relevant area of specialty.

So, why is it so important to hire a relevant law specialist for your special appearance in court?

Well, specialization has its perks. On matters of jurisdiction and process, you a law specialist is best suited to dissect the case to its essentials and find grounds for objection. I’ll illustrate with an example:

The California Code of Civil Procedure § 1005 guarantees the respondent 16 plus 10 days of notice before a hearing if papers are served by mail and the respondent resides out of state. Conventionally, papers need only be served 16 days before a hearing. Therefore, procedure § 1005 provides easy grounds for objection on grounds of defective process.

Only law specialists have the eyes for such detail. Read four more reasons for hiring law specialists.

Let’s now look at how special appearances in court are handled in the state of California:

Special Appearance California: How It Works

Legislation governing special appearances put the respondent at a disadvantage.

They make it rather difficult to terminate proceedings on grounds of jurisdiction. That’s why it’s crucial that you have an attorney on your side. We pride ourself in time-tested law specialists in every field: Injury law specialists, labor law specialists, family law specialist, accident law specialists, divorce law specialists, child custody specialists, and criminal law specialists.

Choose the specialist relevant to your case. Let’s now look at some of the hurdles you’ll need to overcome to file a successful notice of special appearance in California:

Special Appearance: The Nitty-Gritty 

A Notice of Special Appearance Is Not Controlling

This means that a notice of special appearance doesn’t guarantee that the motion will be treated as such. You still need to play by a few rules. If the system seems biased against the respondent on matters of special appearance, it’s because it is.

Regulation evolves with time and there’s still a lot that can be done to streamline the process. Until then, you’ll need an attorney to help you navigate these dangerous waters.

The Type of Motion to File

Remember the rules I mentioned in the previous section? We’ll look at a few of them now:

  1. A motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction, filed under the California Code of Civil Procedure § 473(d) mustn’t raise any other issues. If it does, the motion constitutes a general appearance. In layman terms, stick to the question of jurisdiction in your special appearance.
  2. A motion to quash constitutes a general appearance if relief is sought on any other grounds other than personal jurisdiction. Again, stick to the question of jurisdiction or everything crumbles.
  3. When opposing a motion for attorney fees, if the grounds of opposition isn’t jurisdictional, that’s a general appearance.

Now you know why you need an attorney in your corner during your special appearance in court. The stakes are just too high to risk doing things any other way.

Final Word

You need a law specialist in your corner. Contact us and we’ll help your special appearance in court.


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