§ 5 – Commence a Civil Action to enforce, redress, or protect a private or civil right:

     This page is continued from Getting Started >>>> Civil Law Self-Help Walkthrough >>>> Section 4: Provide Notice, then File a Claim:


     Though there are various types of action, including the criminal action, according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 2, there is only one form of action within civil procedure: the civil action.  Various types of suits or actions are listed below, so you may more accurately reference the type of suit you’ll be filing.

civil action:

1. An action brought to enforce, redress, or protect a private or civil right; a noncriminal litigation. — aka (if brought by a private person) private action; (if brought by a government) public action. [1]

1. An action brought to enforce a civil right; an ordinary action as distinguished from a criminal action, or a special proceeding.  Wurth v Affeld, 265 Wis 119, 60 NW2d 708, 40 ALRD2d 1376; the ordinary proceeding in a court of justice by one party against another for the redress or prevention of a legal wrong or for the enforcement or protection of a private right. 1 Am J2d Actions § 43; more broadly defined as any proceeding in a  court of justice by which an individual pursues that remedy which the law affords him.  Stoil v Hawkeye Casualty Co. (CA8 SD) 185 F2d 96 22 ALR2d 899, comprehending every conceivable cause of action, whether legal or equitable, except such as are criminal in the usual sense that the judgement against the defendant may be a fine or imprisonment, or both.  1 Am J2d Actions § 44. [2]

1. An action brought to enforce a private right, as contrasted with a criminal prosecution; a court proceeding brought by one party against another to correct a legal wrong. [3]

     Excerpt from Edwin E. Bryant’s The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure (2d ed. 1899):

     “The code of New York, as originally adopted, declared, ‘the distinctions between actions at law and suits in equity, and the forms of all such actions and heretofore existing, are abolished; and there shall be in this State hereafter but one form of action for the enforcement or protection of private rights and the redress of private wrongs, which shall be denominated a civil action.’ With slight verbal changes the above provision has been enacted in most of the States and Territories which have adopted the reformed procedure. [4]

Various Terms
Similar to the term “Action”:

action – a civil or criminal judicial proceeding.

cause of action – a group of operative facts giving rise to one or more bases for suing (obtaining a remedy in court from another person).

suit – a broader term than “action” for a judicial proceeding of a civil kind, in pursuit of a legal or equitable remedy. — aka lawsuit; suit at law

Various Types of Actions at Law:

action at law – an action where the only relief obtainable, appropriate, or sought is a legal remedy (a money judgment to recover damages).

Various Types of Actions in Equity:

action in equity – a civil suit that seeks (non-monetary) equitable relief, such as an injunction or specific performance, as opposed to (money) damages. — aka suit in equity

  • equitable remedy – a non-monetary form of (injunctive) relief to help remedy the situation.
  • injunction – a court order commanding an action to be done, or preventing an action from being done, that the plaintiff has shown to be necessary for preventing (further) injury.

action in rem – wherein the named defendant is real or personal property, to determine who owns the title, and who has rights in such property.

possessory action – an action to obtain, recover, or maintain possession of personal or real property, but not title to it.

      The following types of civil actions give insight into the types of equitable remedies one could request within their civil complaint form:

Various Types of Actions:

action de in rem verso – an action for unjust enrichment wherein the plaintiff must show that an enrichment was bestowed, that it caused an impoverishment, that there is no justification, and that the plaintiff has no other adequate remedy at law, including no remedy under an express or implied contract.— aka actio de in rem verso.

personal action – a legal action brought against a person (“in personam“) for recovery of debt, damages, or personal property relating to any type of breach of contract or tort; must be brought by the person injured, not his representative.

action in rem – an action wherein the named defendant is real or personal property, to determine who owns the title, and who has rights in such property.

  • action to quiet title – to establish a plaintiff’s title to land by compelling the adverse claimant to establish a claim or be forever estopped from asserting it.
  • action quasi in rem – an action brought against a person, the objective being to deal with the particular property or to subject the property to the discharge of the claims asserted.


penal action – a civil action to prove a wrongdoer violated a statute, thereby subjecting the wrongdoer to pay a fine directly to the wronged party in addition to punitive damages.


Actions pertaining to Recovery of Land:

action of ejectment – an owner or occupier who was wrongfully ejected recovers possession, damages, and costs.

  • action for mesne profits – following a successful act of ejectment, a suit brought by a landowner to recover from losses resulted from 1.) the use of the land during the wrongful occupation 2.) the costs of the ejectment.

action of assize: (1804) 1. Hist. A real action by which the plaintiff proves title to land merely by showing an ancestor’s possession.  See ASSIZE. 

petitory action – an action for the recovery of real property by showing an proving title to ownership. — aka petitory suit; petitorium; revendication.

local action – an action that can be brought only in the jurisdiction where the cause of action arose because that is the only place such action could possible arise (i.e. involving real property).


Good Samaritan action – brought by a person or group for the benefit of all or part of a community.


office action – a patent examiner’s communication with a patent applicant, usually to state the reasons for denying an application.

action for poinding:

1. Hist. A creditor’s action to obtain sequestration of the land rents and goods of the debtor to satisfy the debt or enforce a distress.

action for the loss of services:

1. A lawsuit by a master for the loss of his servant’s services, filed against a third party who has (it is alleged) wrongfully prevented the provision of those services.

2. A husband’s lawsuit against one who has taken away, imprisoned, or physically harmed his wife in circumstances in which

(1) the act is wrongful to the wife, and
(2) the husband is deprived of her society or services. 
— aka action per quad servitium amisit.

action of debt – See CONDICTIO.

action of declarator(17c) 1.  Scots law. An action brought in the Court of Session for the purpose of establishing a legal status or right. — aka declarator; action for declaratory.

action of reprobator See REPROBATOR.

action on expenditure(1833) 1. An action for payment of the principal debt by a personal surety.

action to review judgment (1853) 1.  Rare. 1 . MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL2. A request for judicial review of a nonjudicial body’s decision, such as an administrative ruling on a workers’-compensation claim.  *  The grounds for review are usually similar to those for a new trial, especially patent errors of law and new evidence.

amicable action: See test caste (1) under CASE (1).

class action See CLASS ACTION.

collusive action: (18c) An action between two parties who have no actual controversy, being merely for the purpose of determining a legal question or receiving a precedent that might prove favorable in related litigation. — aka fictional action.

  • See nominal damages – where no substantial loss occurs, however a tort or breach of contract occurred and the action is filed in order to make the existence of right known, so as to deter future violations.

common-law action: (18c) An action governed by common law, rather than statutory, equitable, or civil law.

criminal action: (16c) An action instituted by the government to punish offenses against the public.

cross-action: (18c) An action brought by the defendant against the plaintiff based on the same subject matter as the plaintiff’s action.  See CROSS-CLAIM.

derivative action. See DERIVATIVE ACTION.

direct action. See DIRECT ACTION.

fictitious action (17c) 1. An action; usually unethical, brought solely to obtain a judicial opinion on an issue of fact or law, rather than for the disposition of a controversy.

guardianship action (1931) Family law. An action brought for the purpose of asking a court to appoint a temporary or permanent guardian to care for property or for a person who is underage or incapacitated.  See guardian of the estate; guardian of the person under GUARDIAN (1).

hypothecary action (1815) Roman & civil law. An action for the enforcement of a mortgage (hypotheca); a lawsuit to enforce a creditor’s claims under a hypothec or hypothecation. — aka actio hypothecaria.

informal action (1963) Administrative law. An executive-branch action that does not fall under rulemaking or formal adjudication procedures in the Administrative Procedure Act.  *  Informal actions are not subject to specific notice and procedural requirements mandated by the APA for rulemaking and formal adjudications.  See ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT.

innominate action (1903) An action that has no special name by which it is known.  Cf. nominate action.

joint action (17c) 1. An action brought by two or more plaintiffs.  2. An action brought against two or more defendants.

local action (18c) An action that can be brought only in the jurisdiction where the cause of action arose, as when the action‘s subject matter is a piece of real property.

matrimonial action (1881) An action relating to the state of marriage, such as an action for separation, annulment, or divorce.

mixed action (15c) An action that has some characteristics of both a real action and a personal action.

     “In early times the only mixed actions were those for the partition of lands, for which a writ was provided in the common-law courts.  The remedy was further enlarged by the statute of 31 Hen. Vll c. 1, and 32 Hen. Vlll c. 32, which gaxe compulsory partition, by writ at common law.  These statutes formed the basis of partition in the American States; but in England and here courts of Chancery have found most convenient, and their procedure most favorable for the division of estates in land.  The statutes at the present time, in most of the States, prescribe a procedure which is quite similar to that in equity practice. Edwin E. Bryant, he def o fPleading Undqer the”3 Codes of Civil Procedure 130 11 (d2 ed. 1899).

nominate action (1993) 1. An action that is known by a name, such as a confessory action, a petitory action, or a possessory action. 

nonpersonal action(1971) 1. An action that proceeds within some category of territorial jurisdiction other than in personam — that is, jurisdiction in rem, quasi in rem, or over status.

plenary action (1837) 1. A full hearing or trial on the merits, as opposed to a summary proceeding.  Cf. summary proceeding under PROCEEDING.

action de die in diam [Law Latin “from day to day”] Hist. 1. An action occurring from day to day; a continuing right of action.   2. An action for trespass for each day that an injury continues. [1]

     Excerpt from R.F.V. Heuston’s Salmond on the Law of Torts (17th ed. 1977):

     “That trespass by way of personal entry is a continuing injury, lasting as long as the personal presence of the wrongdoer, and giving rise to actions de die in diem so long as it lasts, is sufficiently obvious. [5]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1] Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition by Jack Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[4]: Edwin E. Bryant, The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure 106 (2d ed. 1899).

[5]: R.F.V. Heuston, Salmond on the Law of Torts 42 (17th ed. 1977).


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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