What is Action?

Legal Definition
1. A judicial proceeding that involves either civil or criminal claims. An action is brought by one or more plaintiffs against one or more defendants.

2. In general, the process of doing something.
Legal Definition
Conduct, behaviour, something done. Nomen actionis latissime patere vulgo notum est ac comprehenders omnem omnino viventis operationem quae passioni opponitur. Vinnius, Com. lib. 4, tit. 6. De actionibus.

2. Human actions have been divided into necessary actions, or those over which man has no control; and into free actions, or such as he can control at his pleasure. As man is responsible only when he exerts his will, it is clear lie can be punished only for the Iatter.

3. Actions are also divided into positives and negative the former is called an act of commision the latter is the omission of something which ought to be done, and is called an act of omission. A man may be responsible as well for acts of omission, as for acts of commission.

4. Actions are voluntary and involuntary. The former are performed freely and without constraint – the latter are performed not by choice, against one's will or in a manner independent of the will. In general a man is not responsible for his involuntary actions. Yet it has been ruled that if a lunatic hurt a man, he shall be answerable in trespass, although, if he kill a man, it is not felony. See Hob. Rep. 134; Popham, 162; Pam. N. P. 68. See also Duress; Will.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
In practice. Actio nihil aliud est, quam jus persequendi in judicio quod sibi debetur. Just. Inst. Lib. 4, tit. 6; Vinnius, Com. Actions are divided into criminal and civil. Bac. Abr. Actions, A. 2. – 1. A criminal action is a prosecution in a court of justice in the name of the government, against one or more individuals accused of a crime. See 1 Chitly's Cr. Law.

1. – 2. A civil action is a legal demand of one's right, or it is the form given by law for the recovery of that which is due. Co. Litt. 285; 3 Bl. Com. 116; 9 Bouv. Inst. n. 2639; Domat. Supp. des Lois Civiles, liv. 4, tit. 1, No. 1; Poth. Introd. generale aux Coutumes, 109; 1 Sell. Pr. Introd. s. 4, p. 73. Ersk. Princ. of Scot. Law, B. 41 t. 1. 1. Till judgment the writ is properly called an action, but not after, and therefore, a release of all actions is regularly no bar of all execution. Co. Litt. 289 a; Roll. Ab. 291. They are real, personal and mixed. An action is real or personal, according as realty or personalty is recovered; not according to the nature of the defence. Willes' Rep. 134.

4. – 1. Real actions are those brought for the specific recovery of lands, tenements, or hereditaments. Steph. PI. 3. They are either droitural, when the demandant seeks to recover the property; or possessory when he endeavors to obtain the possession. Finch's Law, 257, 8. See Bac. Abr. Actions, A, contra. Real Actions are, 1st. Writs of right; 2dly, Writs of entry, which lie in the per, the per et cui, or the post, upon disseisin, intrusion. or alienation. 3dly. Writs ancestral possessory, as Mort d' ancester, aid, besaiel, cosinage, or Nuper obiit. Com. Dig. Actions, D 2. By these actions formerly all disputes concerning real estate, were decided; but now they are pretty generally laid aside in practice, upon account of the great nicety required in their management, and the inconvenient length of their process; a much more expeditious, method of trying titles being since introduced by other actions, personal and mixed. 3 Bl. Com. 118. See Booth on Real Actions.

5. – 2. Personal actions are those brought for the specific recovery of goods and chattels; or for damages or other redress for breach of contract, or other injuries, of whatever description; the specific recovery of lands, tenements, and hereditaments only excepted. Steph. PI. 3; Com. Dig. Actions, D 3; 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 2641. Personal actions arise either upon contracts, or for wrongs independently of contracts. The former are account, assumpsit, covenant, debt, and detinue; see these words. In Connecticut and Vermont there is, an action used which is peculiar to those states, called the action of book debt. 2 Swift's Syst. Ch. 15. The actions for wrongs, injuries, or torts, are trespass on the case, replevin, trespass, trover. See these words, and see Actio personalis moritur cum persona.

6. – 3. Mixed actions are such as appertain, in some degree, to both the former classes, and, therefore, are properly reducible to neither of them, being brought for the specific recovery of lands, tenements, or hereditaments, and for damages for injury sustained in respect of such property. Steph. Pl. 3; Co. Litt. 284, b; Com. Dig. Actions, D 4. Every mixed action, properly so called, is also a real action. The action of ejectment is a personal action, and formerly, a count for an assault and battery might be joined with a count for the recovery of a term of Years in land.

7. Actions are also divided into those which are local and such as are transitory.

1. A local action is one in which the venue must still be laid in the county, in which the cause of action actually arose. The locality of actions is founded in some cases, on common law principles, in others on the statute law.

8. Of those which continue local, by the common law, are, lst, all actions in which the subject or thing to be recovered is in its nature local. Of this class are real actions, actions of waste, when brought on the statute of Gloucester, (6 Edw. I.) to recover with the damages, the locus in quo or place wasted; and actions of ejectment. Bac. Abr. Actions Local, &c. A, a; Com. Dig. Actions, N 1; 7 Co. 2 b; 2 Bl. Rep. 1070. All these are local, because they are brought to recover the seisin or possession of lands or tenements, which are local subjects.

9. – 2dly. Various actions which do not seek the direct recovery of lands or tenements, are also local, by the common law; because they arise out of some local subject, or the violation of some local right or interest. For example, the action of quare impedit is local, inasmuch as the benefice, in the right of presentationto which the plaintiff complains of being obstructed, is so. 7 Co. 3 a; 1 Chit. PI. 271; Com. Dig. Actions, N 4. Within this class of cases are also many actions in which only pecuniary damages are recoverable. Such are the common law action of waste, and trespass quare clausum fregit; as likewise trespass on the case for injuries affecting things real, as for nuisances to houses or lands; disturbance of rights of way or of common; obstruction or diversion of ancient water courses, &c. 1 Chit. Pl. 271; Gould on Pl. ch. 3, 105, 106, 107. The action of replevin, also, though it lies for damages only, and does not arise out of the violation of any local right, is nevertheless local. 1 Saund. 347, n. 1. The reason of its locality appears to be the necessity of giving a local description of the taking complained of. Gould on PI. ch. 3, 111. A scire facias upon a record, (which is an action, 2 Term Rep. 46,) although to some intents, a continuation of the original suit, 1 Term Rep. 388, is also local.

10. – 2. Personal actions which seek nothing more than the recovery of money or personal chattels of any kind, are in most cases transitory, whether they sound in tort or in contract; Com. Dig. Actions, N 12; 1 Chit. PI. 273; because actions of this class are, in most instances, founded on the violation of rights which, in contemplation of law, have no locality. 1 Saund. 241, b, note 6. And it will be found true, as a general position, that actions ex delicto, in which a mere personalty is recoverable, are, by the common law, transitory;except when founded upon, or arising out of some local subject. Gould on Pl. ch. 3, 112. The venue in a transitory action may be laid in any county which the plaintiff may prefer. Bac. Abr. Actions Local, &c. A. (a.)

11. In the civil law actions are divided into real, personal, and mixed. A real action, according to the civil law, is that which he who is the owner of a thing, or, has a right in it, has against him who is in possession of it, to compel him to give up the plaintiff, or to permit him to enjoy the right he has in it. It is a right which a person has in a thing, follows the thing, and may be instituted against him who possesses it; and this whether the thing be movable or immovable and, in the sense of the common law, whether the thing be real or personal. See Domat, Supp. des Lois Civiles, Liv. 4, tit. 1, n. 5; Pothier, Introd. Generales aux Coutumes 110; Ersk. Pr. Scot. Law, B. 4, t. 1, 2.

12. A personal action is that which a creditor has against his debtor, to compel him to fulfil his engagement. Pothier, lb. Personal actions are divided into civil actions and criminal actions. The former are those which are instituted to compel the payment or to do some other thing purely civil the latter are those by which the plaintiff asks the reparation of a tort or injury which he or those who belong to him have sustained. Sometimes these two kinds of actions are united when they assume the name of mixed personal actions. Domat, Supp. des Lois Civiles, Liv. 4, tit. 1, n. 4; 1 Brown's Civ. Law, 440.

13. Mixed actions participate both of personal and real actions. Such are the actions of partition, and to compel the parties to put down landmarks or boundaries. Domat, ubi supra.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Conduct; behavior; something done; the condition of acting; an act or series of acts. In practice. The legal and formal demand of one's right from another person or party made and insisted on in a court of justice. Valentine v. Boston, 20 Pick. (Mass.) 201; Hibernia Nat. Bank v. Lacombe, 84 N. Y. 376; Appeal of McBride, 72 Pa. 4SO; Wilt v. Stickney, 30 Fed. Cas. 256; White v. Rio Grande Western R. Co., 25 Utah, 346, 71 Pac. 593; Bridgton v. Bennett, 23 Me. 420; Harger v. Thomas, 44 Pa. 128, 84 Am. Dec. 422; Peeler v. Norris, 4 Yerg. (Tenn.) 339.

An action is an ordinary proceeding in a court of justice by which one party prosecutes another for the ehforcement or protection of a right, the redress or prevention of a wrong, or the punishment of a public offence. Code Civ. Proc. Cal. § 22; Code N. Y. § 2; Code N. C. 1883, § 126; Rev. Code N. D. 1899, § 5156; Code Civ. Proc. S. D. 1903, § 12; Missionary Soc. v. Ely, 56 Ohio St. 405, 47 N. E. 537; In re Welch, 108 Wis. 387, 84 N. W. 550; Smith v. Westerfield, 88 Cal. 374, 26 Pac. 207; Losey v. Stanley, 83 Hun. 420, 31 N. Y. Supp. 950; Lawrence v. Thomas, 84 Iowa, 362, 51 N. W. 11.

An action is merely the judicial means of enforcing a right. Code Ga. 1882, § 3151. Action is the form of a suit given by law for the recovery of that which is one's due; the lawful demand of one's right. Co. Litt. 284b, 285a. An action is a legal proceeding by a party complainant against a party defendant to obtain the judgment of the court in relation to some right claimed to be secured, or some remedy claimed to be given by law, to the party complaining. Haley v. Eureka County Bank, 21 Nev. 127, 26 Pac. 64, 12 In R. A. 815.

Classification of actions. Civil actions are such as lie in behalf of persons to enforce their rights or obtain redress of wrongs in their relation to individuals. Criminal actions are such as are instituted by the sovereign power, for the purpose of punishing or preventing offenses against the public. Penal actions are such as are brought, either by the state or by an individual undor permission of a statute, to enforce a penalty imposed by law for the commission of a prohibited act Common law actions are such as will lie, on the particular facts, at common law, without the aid of a statute. Statutory actions are such as can only be based upon the particular statutes creating them. Popular actions, in English usage, are those actions which are given upon the breach of a penal statute, and which any man that will may sue on account of the king and himself, as the statute allows and the case requires. Because the action is not given to one especially, but generally to any that will prosecute, it is called "action popular;" and, from the words used in the process, (qui tarn pro domino rege sequitur quam pro se ipso, who sues as well for the king as for himself,) it is called a qui tarn action. Tomlins. Real, personal, mixed. Actions are divided into real, personal, and mixed. See Infra. Local action. An action is so termed when all the principal facts on which it is founded are of a local nature; as where possession of land is to be recovered, or damages for an actual trespass, or for waste affecting land, because in such case the cause of action relates to some particular locality, which usually also constitutes the venue of the action. Miller v. Rickey (C. Ct) 127 Fed. 577; Crook v. Pitcher, 61 Md. 513 ; Beirne v. Rosser, 26 Grat. (Va.) 541; McLeod v. Railroad Co., 58 Vt. 727, 6 Atl. 648; Ackerson v. Erie In Co., 31 N. J. Law, 311; Texas & P. R. Co. v. Gay, 86 Tex. 571, 26 S. W. 599, 25 In R. A. 52. Transitory actions are those founded upon a cause of action not necessarily referring to or arising in any particular locality. Actions are called, in common-law practice, ex contractu when they are founded on a contract; ex delicto when they arise out of a tort. Umlauf v. Umlaut, 103 111. 651; Nelson v. Great Northern R. Co.., 28 Mont. 297, 72 Pac. 642; Van Oss v. Synon, 85 Wis. 661, 56 N. W. 190.

"Action" and "Suit." The terms "action" and "suit" are now nearly, if not entirely, synonymous. (3 Bi. Comm. 3, 116, et passim.) Or, if there be a distinction, it is that the term "action" is generally confined to proceedings in a court of law, while "suit" is equally applied to prosecutions at law or in equity. White v. Washington School Dist., 45 Conn. 59; Dullard v. Phelan, 83 Iowa, 471, 50 N. W. 204; Lamson v. Hutchings, 118 Fed. 321, 55 C. O. A. 245; Page v. Brewster, 58 N. H. 126; Kennebec Water Dist. v. Waterville, 96 Me. 234, 52 Atl. 774; Miller v. Rapp, 7 Ind. App. 89, 34 N. E. 126; Hall v. Bartlett, 9 Barb. (N. Y.) 297; Branyan v. Kay, 33 S. C. 283, 11 S. E. 970; Niantic Mills Co., v. Riverside & O. Mills, 19 R. I, 34, 31 Atl. 432; Ulshafer v. Stewart, 71 Pa. 170. Formerly, however, there was a more substantial distinction between them. An action was considered as terminating with the giving of judgment, and the execution formed no part of it. (Litt. § 504; Co. Litt. 289a.) A suit, on the other hand, included the execution. (Id. 291a.) So, an action is termed by Lord Coke, "the right of a suit." (2 Inst. 40.) Burrill.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A proceeding before a court of law to establish one party’s right against another. See 37 N. H. 457.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
French com. law. Stock in a coompany, shares in a corporation.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary