civil law | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

In the American legal system, civil law refers to the body of law that deals with disputes between individuals or organizations, as opposed to criminal law, which deals with offenses against the state.

Civil law is concerned with issues such as contracts, torts, property, and family law. It is based on the idea of private justice, in which individuals or organizations bring disputes to the courts for resolution.

In the United States, the civil justice system is divided into federal and state courts. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases that involve federal laws, treaties, and the Constitution. State courts have jurisdiction over cases that involve state laws and the Constitution.

In the American civil justice system, the legal process typically begins with the filing of a complaint or petition, which sets out the facts of the case and the relief that the plaintiff is seeking. The case is then decided by a judge or a jury, who apply the relevant laws to the facts of the case. Civil cases may also be resolved through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration.

It is important to note that the United States has a common law legal system, which means that the law is largely based on judicial decisions rather than a comprehensive written code. However, some areas of law, such as contract law and property law, are largely governed by principles and rules that are codified in statutory law.

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Last Modified: 01/08/2023


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