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Appellate Practice in Washington

This research guide is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather will list some of the major sources of law in the area and a variety of tools for the researcher to use when confronted with questions involving appellate procedure in Washington.


Appellate procedure is largely regulated by court rule. However, constitutional and statutory law surround these rules. Article IV, section 2, of the Washington Constitution created the Washington Supreme Court. The Legislature has further provided for the Supreme Courts framework in RCW Chapter 2.04. Similarly, the Legislature sets the framework for the Court of Appeals in RCW Chapter 2.06.

Court Rules

Task Force Comments often accompany the text of the rules. These are formal notes made by the Task Force charged with drafting the rules for the Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court has not formally adopted the Comments, they may be helpful in understanding the intent of a rule. NOTE: At one time, RAP 18.24 explicitly stated the Comments had not been adopted by the Supreme Court. That provision was repealed but the action does not imply that in doing so, the Court meant to adopt the Comments.

As previously stated, the primary authority governing most issues of appellate procedure in Washington is the Washington Court Rules. More specifically, the Rules of Appellate Procedure (created by the State Supreme Court) set forth requirements such as time of filing, format of documents, and protocols for brief writing and oral argument. The RAPs are published every year in West Group's Washington Court Rules - State. The RAPs are also available online (from the Washington State courts' homepage).

Washington Court Rules Annotated includes not only the text of the rules themselves, but also digests of cases and cites to law review articles discussing each rule. The RAPs are also reprinted, analyzed and discussed in volumes 2 and 3 of Washington Practice, KFW80.W32 at Reserve.


Cases discussing issues of appellate procedure can be found a variety of ways. Two of the most likely sources are Washington Court Rules Annotated, KFW 529.A2 at Reserve, or Washington Digest, at Reference.

In the Washington Digest, most cases will be under the topic "Appeal and Error." The Topic Analysis at the beginning of the Topic may provide useful guidance in finding cases. Alternatively, a researcher can look up the specific issue in the Descriptive Word Index to the entire set.

Online searching of full-text databases such as Lexis or Westlaw is another way to locate cases on appellate issues. The researcher may find it useful to combine the rule number with relevant words to focus the query. Finally, useful cases may also be found in the footnotes to treatises like Washington Appellate Practice Deskbook (available online through Lexis+) or in the footnotes of law review articles.