Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits (as opposed to procedures in criminal law matters). These rules govern how a lawsuit or case may be commenced, what kind of service of process (if any) is required, the types of pleadings or statements of case, motions or applications, and orders allowed in civil cases, the timing and manner of depositions and discovery or disclosure, the conduct of trials, the process for judgment, various available remedies, and how the courts and clerks must function.
Differences between civil and criminal procedure
Criminal and civil procedure are different. Although some systems, including the English, allow private persons to bring a criminal prosecution against another person, prosecutions are nearly always started by the state, in order to punish the defendant. Civil actions, on the other hand, are started by private individuals, companies or organisations, for their own benefit. In addition, governments (or their subdivisions or agencies) may also be parties to civil actions. The cases are usually in different courts, and juries are not so often used in civil cases.
In Anglo-American law, the party bringing a criminal charge (that is, in most cases, the state) is called the "prosecution", but the party bringing most forms of civil action is the "plaintiff" or "claimant". In both kinds of action the other party is known as the "defendant". A criminal case against a person called Ms. Sanchez would be described as “The People v. (="versus", "against" or "and") Sanchez,” "The State (or Commonwealth) v. Sanchez" or "[The name of the State] v. Sanchez" in the United States and “R. (Regina, that is, the Queen) v. Sanchez” in England. But a civil action between Ms. Sanchez and a Mr. Smith would be “Sanchez v. Smith” if it was started by Sanchez, and “Smith v. Sanchez” if it was started by Mr. Smith.
Most countries make a clear distinction between civil and criminal procedure. For example, a criminal court may force a convicted defendant to pay a fine as punishment for his crime, and the legal costs of both the prosecution and defence. But the victim of the crime generally pursues his claim for compensation in a civil, not a criminal, action. In France and England, however, a victim of a crime may incidentally be awarded compensation by a criminal court judge.
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