Special appearance

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A special appearance is a term used in the American law of civil procedure to describe a civil defendant's appearance in the court of another State solely to dispute the personal jurisdiction of the court over that defendant. Prior to the advent of this procedure, defendants had to either appear in the other state's court to defend the case on the merits, or not show up in court at all, and then mount a collateral attack on any judgment rendered against them, when the plaintiff came to the defendant's state to collect on the judgment. In a legal catch-22, if the defendant appeared solely to contest jurisdiction, the court would then be permitted to assert jurisdiction based on the defendant's presence.

In response to the apparent inequity presented by this situation, most states have passed statutes permitting the defendant to make a special appearance in the courts of the state to contest jurisdiction, without further subjecting themselves to the jurisdiction of the court. The equivalent of such an appearance is possible in U.S. federal courts, for the defendant may make a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Where a special appearance is permitted, the term general appearance is used to denote the normal type of appearance in court. A "special appearance" is in contrast to a "general appearance".

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