Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Civil Action Definition:

Any action that is not a criminal proceeding.

In Roubos, Justice Berch wrote:

"A civil action is commonly understood to be any action that is not a criminal prosecution."

Often used in the context of certain proceedings which smack of criminal process but for which a determination of civil action is more appropriate. For example, contempt proceedings are genrally civil actions,1 as would a writ of habeas corpus2 and even a law suit relevant to the enforcement of a city noise by-law.3


  • In re Davitch, 336 BR 241 (United States Bankruptcy Court, Pennsylvania, 2006, note 1)
  • Roubus v. Miller, 153 P. 3d 1045 (2007; note 3)
  • Vacchio v. Ashcroft, 404 F. 3d 663 (United States Court of Appeals, 2005; note 2)

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