views updated Jun 11 2018


A coming into court by a party to a suit, either in person or through an attorney, whether as plaintiff or defendant. The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court. The voluntary submission to a court's jurisdiction.

In a criminal prosecution, an appearance is the initial court proceeding in which a defendant is first brought before a judge. The conduct of an appearance is governed by state and federal rules of criminal procedure. The rules vary from state to state, but they are generally consistent. During an appearance, the judge advises the defendant of the charges and of the defendant's rights, considers bail or other conditions of release, and schedules a preliminary hearing. If the crime charged is a misdemeanor, the defendant may sometimes, depending on the local rules of court, enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at the initial appearance; if the crime is a felony, the defendant usually enters the plea at a later court proceeding. A criminal defendant may have an attorney present and may confer with the attorney during the appearance.

In some situations, a defendant may not need to appear in court in person and may even make an appearance by mail. For example, when individuals receive traffic tickets they may choose to send in a check for the amount of the fine.

Many state statutes permit appearances to be made by two-way, closed-circuit television. For instance, North Carolina's rule on video appearances reads:

A first appearance in a noncapital case may be conducted by an audio and video transmission between the judge and defendant in which the parties can see and hear each other. If the defendant has counsel, the defendant shall be allowed to communicate fully and confidentially with his attorney during the proceeding (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-601(a1)[1994]).

An appearance is also a coming into court as a party to a civil lawsuit. Although an appearance can be made by either the plaintiff (the one who has sued) or the defendant (the one being sued), the term most often refers to the action of the defendant.

The subject of appearance is closely related to the subject of personal jurisdiction, which is the court's authority over an individual party. An appearance is some overt act by which the defendant comes before the court to either submit to or challenge the court's jurisdiction.

Any party can appear either in person or through an attorney or a duly authorized representative; the party need not be physically present. In most instances, an attorney makes the appearance. An appearance can also be made by filing a notice of appearance with the clerk of the court and the plaintiff, which states that the defendant will either submit to the authority of the court or challenge its jurisdiction. In a lawsuit involving multiple defendants, an appearance by one is not an appearance for the others. Valid service of process is not required before an appearance can be made.

Historically, appearances have been classified with a variety of names indicating their manner or significance. A compulsory appearance is compelled by process served on the party. A conditional appearance is coupled with conditions as to its becoming or being taken as a general appearance (defined later in this article). A corporal appearance indicates that the person is physically present in court. A de bene esse (Latin, "of well being," sufficient for the present) appearance is provisional and will remain good only upon a future contingency. A gratis (Latin, "free" or "freely") appearance is made by a party to the action before the service of any process or legal notice to appear. An optional appearance is entered by a person who is intervening in the action to protect his or her own interests, though not joined as a party. A subsequent appearance is made by a defendant after an appearance has already been entered for him or her by the plaintiff. Finally, a voluntary appearance is entered by a party's own will or consent, without service of process, although process might be outstanding.

The two most common categories of appearances are general and special.

General Appearance

Any action by which the defendant recognizes the jurisdiction of the court constitutes a general appearance. This is an unqualified submission to the court's personal jurisdiction over the defendant and is treated as the equivalent of a valid service of process.

By making a general appearance, the defendant agrees that the court has the power to bind her or him by its actions and waives the right to raise any jurisdictional defects (e.g., by claiming that the service of process was improper). The defendant also waives the objection that the case is brought in the wrong venue. The defendant does not, however, waive any substantive rights or defenses, such as the claim that the court

lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case or authority to hear the particular type of case (e.g., a bankruptcy court will not hear personal injury cases).

Special Appearance

A special appearance is one made for a limited purpose. It can be made, for example, to challenge the sufficiency of the service of process. But most often, a special appearance is made to challenge the court's personal jurisdiction over the defendant. It prevents a default judgment from being rendered against the defendant for failing to file a pleading. (A default judgment is an automatic loss for failing to answer the complaint properly.)

When a defendant makes a special appearance, no other issues may be raised without that appearance's becoming a general appearance. If a party takes any action dealing with the merits of the case, the party is deemed to have made a general appearance and submitted to the jurisdiction of the court.

If a challenge is successful and the court agrees that it does not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, it will dismiss the action. If the court finds against the defendant on that issue, that decision can later be appealed.

The right to make a special appearance is almost universally recognized, except where abolished by statute. As a rule, leave of court (permission) must be obtained before a special appearance can be made, but this is not always the case.

Federal Rules

Federal courts and states that have adopted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have eliminated the distinction between a general and a special appearance. Instead of challenging the court's personal jurisdiction in a special appearance, a defendant can do so by use of a pretrial motion to dismiss the cause of action, or in an answer to the complaint. A removal proceeding, in which a defendant asks to have the case moved from state court to federal court, is regarded as a special appearance.

Limited Appearance

In a number of states, a defendant in a lawsuit based on quasi in rem jurisdiction may make a limited appearance. Quasi in rem is a Latin phrase for a type of jurisdiction in which the court has power over the defendant's property because it lies within the geographic boundaries of the court's jurisdiction. The presence of the property gives the court jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. To invoke quasi in rem jurisdiction, the court must find some connection between the property and the subject matter of the lawsuit.

A limited appearance enables a defendant to defend the action on the merits, but should the defendant lose, he or she will be held liable only up to the value of the identified property and not for all possible damages. A defendant who makes a limited appearance and wins the case can be sued again by the same plaintiff in a different court.

In states that have no provision for a limited appearance, a defendant can avoid being subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court by refusing to appear, thereby causing a default and a consequent forfeiture of the property. Or the defendant can submit to the court's personal jurisdiction, defend the case on its merits, and face the possibility of full liability. The defendant must decide which course of action is best, after comparing the value of the seized property with the damages being sought by the plaintiff and considering the likelihood of winning the case at trial.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for limited appearances in federal court but instead defer to state law on that issue. A slightly greater number of courts permit limited appearances than do not. The law of the jurisdiction in which the action is brought must be consulted to determine whether limited appearances are permitted.


If an appearance has been entered through fraud or mistake or after the plaintiff's complaint has been materially amended, the discretion of the court may permit the appearance to be withdrawn. A proper withdrawal is treated as if no appearance at all had been entered in the case. A defendant who has withdrawn a general appearance may ask the court for leave to file a special appearance to challenge the court's jurisdiction.

If someone makes an unauthorized appearance on behalf of the defendant, it may be stricken or set aside by a motion of any party with an interest in the proceeding.

Delay or Failure to Appear

A defendant who fails to appear in court pursuant to a service of process might have a default judgment entered against her or him and be held in contempt of court. A failure to appear does not, however, result in a waiver of objections to the court's jurisdiction.

If a defendant fails to make an appearance in the time allotted by statute or court rules, he or she may lose certain rights. But if the circumstances warrant it, a court may extend the time of appearance.

further readings

Weinreb, Lloyd L. 2001. 2001 Supplement to Criminal Process: Cases, Comments, Questions. Eagan, Minn.: Foundation.

Yeazell, Stephen C. 1998. Federal Rules of Civil Procedures: With Selected Statutes and Cases. Gaithersburg, Md.: Aspen.


Civil Procedure.


views updated May 23 2018


The term "appearance" is commonly used in relation to the observable characteristics of a wide range of things in the environment such as human beings, plants and animals, geographical and atmospheric conditions, and buildings, to name only a few. However, this entry will be limited to a discussion of appearance in relation to the human body along with things placed on or about it in functioning as stimuli for communication.

Human beings have the capability of communicating in many different ways, often simultaneously. Appearance, because of visual characteristics and the versatility with which they can be structured to send various messages, is used frequently as a type of nonverbal communication as the primary focus of attention or in conjunction with other forms of communication.

The Body and Dress

For purposes of study and analysis, appearance can be considered according to two major components: the body and dress. Because the characteristics of each are complex, there is merit in considering them independently before examining their interrelatedness.

The body component. A wide range of observable characteristics of the body serve as stimuli during the process of communication. They fall into four main categories: body forms, body motions, body surfaces, and facial configurations. The category of body forms includes characteristics pertaining to the overall structure of the body in a fixed position as well as the structure of various units such as the head and limbs, each of which provides a different kind of stimuli in appearance. Because body forms include size, shape, and mass, they are among the most compelling aspects of appearance.

The category of body motions pertains to interrelationships between movement and the totality of the body as well as certain parts. Gait, hand gestures, shoulder shrugs, nods, and pelvic movements all fall into this category. Dynamic effects are often produced in appearance through the tempo and rhythm of body motions.

The category of body surfaces pertains to characteristics of coverings of the overall body and its parts such as the color and texture of skin and hair. Because body surfaces appeal to both the senses of touch and sight, they can be among the most sensuous qualities of appearance.

The category of facial configurations pertains to forms, motions, and surfaces that are unique to the face. Since the face is composed of various forms, has potential for movement, and has color and texture in skin and hair, this category is an integration of characteristics that are similar to those in the other categories but on a smaller scale. However, since the face is a particularly expressive part of the body and often serves as a major source of stimuli in appearance, there is merit in considering facial configurations as a category apart from its counterparts in the overall body composition.

Each of the four categories of the body component can be analyzed further on the basis of constituent parts referred to as elements. In addition to contributing to the totality of a major characteristic of the body, each has the potential of being a dominant aspect of appearance unto itself. For example, eye movements are among the mix of elements that constitute the overall characteristics of facial configurations, but they can also command special attention when they occur in such forms as unexpected winks or sudden blinks. In a similar way, skin color and texture are integrated characteristics of body surfaces, but they can also be dominant features of appearance when they stand out for some reason.

In prehistoric times, appearance was based solely on the body since the concept of dress had not yet evolved. However, there is considerable documentation that even in the early years, the body was modified in various ways apart from donning items of clothing. Substances were discovered in nature that could be used to change the color and texture of both skin and hair and technological innovations were made that could change the size, shape, and contours of the body.

The dress component. As knowledge about materials expanded and skills concerning processes and techniques emerged, new ways of protecting and enhancing the body began to appear. Although scholars have referred to the classification of those innovations in various ways, they are referred to as dress in this entry.

Characteristics of dress fall into two main categories: articles of clothing and articles of adornment. The term "clothing" pertains to things that are placed over the body to bring about comfort or protection whereas the term "adornment" is used in reference to items that are placed on or about the body to enhance it. However, the dividing line is not always clear since clothing can serve as adornment and under certain circumstances, adornment functions as clothing.

Just as various categories of the body can be considered according to elements, so can the categories of clothing and articles of adornment. Materials, processes, and techniques function as elements in both the categories of clothing and adornment. New and compelling characteristics of both clothing and adornment are often the result of advancements in materials or innovations that have come about through processes and techniques.

In addition to serving different functions, clothing and adornments differ in other ways. Materials used for clothing are most likely to be softer and more pliable than those used for adornments. Since comfort and protection are often desirable qualities in clothing, characteristics of body forms, motions, and surfaces tend to be taken into greater consideration in clothing design than they are in that of adornment.

Interrelationships between the body and dress. Appearance is the result of various configurations of the body operating either independently or in conjunction with dress. As persons are born, raised, and socialized into a culture, they are introduced to prevailing standards of appearance, some of which pertain to the body, others to dress. They learn to assemble configurations of appearance from a wide assortment of elements pertaining to the body and dress. Some of those elements remain fixed for long periods whereas others are temporary.

A person's appearance undergoes considerable change throughout the life cycle; however, some influences account for more rapid changes than others. Physical characteristics, notions about beauty, and the influence of social and cultural norms about dress are more likely to evolve slowly whereas attitudes about material culture and lifestyle usually change more rapidly.

As cultures evolved in various parts of the world, appearance became increasingly important as a medium of self-expression and communication. Overall, body factors have tended to provide useful information about gender, age, race, ethnicity, physical conditions, and origins of human beings whereas dress has conveyed clues pertaining to individual and collective forms of expression, resourcefulness, technical expertise, attitudes about social class, and belief systems along with a wide range of other social and cultural factors.

In contemporary cultures of both the East and West, appearance has evolved into a rapidly changing complex interrelationship between components of the body and dress. In addition to being the result of ongoing cultural evolution that interrelationship has been nurtured by various economic-driven industries, such as print and electronic media, cosmetology, film, fashion, and more and more, cosmetic surgery. Participants of contemporary culture are exposed to a multitude of new images for changing appearance along with corresponding products for bringing them about. Once those images are adopted, persons are encouraged to both abandon and replace them with even more recent images, thereby maintaining an ongoing cycle of appearance change.

See alsoClothing, Costume, and Dress; Fashion and Identity .


Hillestad, Robert. "The Underlying Structure of Appearance." Dress, The Journal of the Costume Society of America 6 (1980): 117–125.

Robert Hillestad


views updated May 23 2018

ap·pear·ance / əˈpi(ə)rəns/ • n. 1. the way that someone or something looks: I like the appearance of stripped antique pine. ∎  an impression given by someone or something, although this may be misleading: she read it with every appearance of interest.2. an act of performing or participating in a public event: he is well-known for his television appearances.3. [usu. in sing.] an act of becoming visible or noticeable; an arrival: the sudden appearance of her daughter startled her. ∎  a process of coming into existence or use: the appearance of the railroad.PHRASES: keep up appearances maintain an impression of wealth or well-being, typically to hide the true situation.make (or put in) an appearance attend an event briefly, typically out of (or by) all appearances as far as can be seen.