What is a Notice of Appearance?

A Notice of Appearance is a party’s formal entry into a lawsuit. The term is normally associated with the Defendant, who appears after being served with the Summons and Complaint. 

The Notice of Appearance is a pleading that is filed with the Court, stating that the defendant is appearing on their own behalf or represented by an attorney. 

By filing and serving a Notice of Appearance, a Defendant becomes entitled to notice of all subsequent proceedings. RCW 4.28.210. 

By contrast, if the Defendant fails to file and serve a Notice of Appearance OR an Answer, the case may proceed against the Defendant without notice of subsequent proceedings, ultimately resulting in the entry of a Default Judgment against the Defendant, awarding the Plaintiff everything they asked for in their Complaint. 

A Defendant may appear by filing and serving a written Notice of Appearance, without immediately serving an Answer. RCW 4.28.210. This is the most common means of appearing and it gives the Defendant time to research and draft a formal Answer without the risk of a Default Judgment. 

  • CR 4(a)(3) requires a Notice of Appearance to be in writing and signed by the Defendant or the Defendant’s Attorney. 
  • The Notice of Appearance must be served on the person whose name is signed on the Summons. 
  • You should make a record of the appearance by filing the Notice of Appearance, together with a Certificate of Service, in the Clerk’s Office. 

Appearance by Attorney: 

  • An attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Washington may appear on behalf of their client. RCW 2.44.010 and CR 70.1. 
  • Once an attorney has appeared on behalf of a party, service of pleadings and other papers must be made upon the attorney, rather than the client, unless the court orders otherwise. CR 5(b). 
  • Service on the attorney can properly be made until the lawyer has formally withdrawn from the case in the manner provided in CR 71. 

Pro Se Appearance: 

  • An adult natural person may prosecute or defend their own action pro se, without an attorney. 
  • A party appearing pro se is bound by the same rules of conduct and procedure as an attorney. 

Service of Answer is Appearance: 

  • Service of a formal Answer to the Complaint constitutes an appearance, even if the Answer is not preceded by a Notice of Appearance. RCW 4.28.210.