A lawsuit brought to enforce, redress, or protect rights of private litigants—the plaintiffs and the defendants—not a criminal proceeding.
Today, courts in the United States generally are not divided into common-law courts and equity courts because most states and the federal government have merged the procedures for law and equity into one system. Now all kinds of lawsuits are simply called civil actions without the former distinctions of procedure in law or in equity.
A criminal proceeding is called a penal action to distinguish it from civil actions.
"Civil Action." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/civil-action
"Civil Action." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved January 21, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/civil-action
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