Putnam's Handy Law Book for the Layman

Legal Remedies. - Elsewhere we have shown how civil and criminal law differ. In criminal proceedings the state is a party and prosecutes offenders through agents or attorneys who are chosen or appointed for that purpose. In all civil offenses the person injured prosecutes the offender, through the courts established by the state for that purpose. Suppose A owed B one hundred dollars for which he gave his promissory note payable in ninety days from date, and which on its maturity A declined to pay. B could then have recourse to a court of law to collect the money. If knowing nothing about the mode of proceeding he would employ a lawyer; if he was familiar with legal proceedings he could do this himself.

What is the first step taken by a lawyer? He makes out a writ or complaint stating B's course of action against A—that he has loaned him a sum of money which he has not paid as he promised to do, and he is summoned to appear in court at a certain time and place and answer why he does not pay and the court is asked to render judgment against him, if there is no defense, for the money due with the addition of the costs incurred in seeking the aid of the court to collect the money. This writ, declaration, or complaint is given to the sheriff of the court where either A or B lives, who "serves" it on A. This service consists in reading a copy of it by the sheriff, or by one of his deputies or a constable, or other authorized person, to A, or in leaving a true and attested copy thereof with him, which has become the universal practice. This is the ordinary mode of beginning a legal action against a person or corporation.

An action thus begun is followed by a trial of the case unless it is settled. Usually the trial comes off [165]within a few months, but not infrequently long delays occur. If, after the introduction of testimony, judgment is rendered in favor of B, an "execution" or order is issued by the court directing the sheriff to levy on A's property, whatever he may have, save a small sum, household furniture and the like, and sell it and turn over the proceeds to B in payment of his debt. If there was a balance left from the sale of A's property after satisfying the judgment of the court and the costs of the legal proceedings, it would be paid to A. This, in fewest words, is the mode of proceeding in a court of law to obtain redress in a civil suit or action.

There are several kinds of actions or remedies used in different cases and these will now be explained. First, is the action of assumpsit. This is the form of action used whenever one sues to recover on all kinds of promises, those implied by the law as well as express promises, not under seal. They include all ordinary promises to do things either orally or in writing. Next, is the action of covenant. This is used whenever one sues to recover for some failure on the part of a person who has given a deed or other sealed writing. Suppose the purchaser of land discovered there was an unpaid mortgage thereon, though the deed covenants or declares that it is free from all encumbrances. The vendee or purchaser would sue to recover for a broken covenant. Another action is replevin which is used to recover specific goods. Suppose someone had taken my horse and refused to deliver the animal to me. The proper remedy would be replevin. Suppose I did not wish to have the horse back, but only its value or worth. Then the proper remedy would be an action of trover. Another form of action in much use is called trespass. This is [166]used to recover damages for injuries to persons and property. If a person knocked me down and I sued him to recover for the injury, trespass would be the proper form of action. In many states an action in tort instead of trespass is the proper remedy. If one should come upon my land and take away wood, grass, stone, or in any way injure it, trespass also would be the form of action. Ejectment is the action employed to eject or turn out a wrongful possessor and recover possession of land. In this action the title or ownership of the land lies at the foundation; and the title to many a piece has been settled in an action of ejectment. One of the most familiar actions is habeas corpus, which is employed to recover a person's liberty from illegal restraint. As the actions of slander and libel have been described, only two others require notice, mandamus and quo warranto. The first of these is used to compel one to do something. A familiar example is that of a city which refuses to pay a judgment that has been rendered against it. The court in this action commands the city to pay, and it must obey unless there exists a legal defense. A quo warranto is the form of legal action to which a person resorts to get possession of an office to which he is entitled, but is denied him. Suppose one is elected mayor of a city, but for some reason or other, the one in possession is determined to keep him out. He would bring this action and a court would then decide whether he was entitled to it or not, and if he were, the court would proceed to put him in possession.

In many of the states, especially the newer ones, not all of these different forms of action are used. Only one form, called a complaint, includes most of them. While the substitution of this has simplified [167]the modes of redress, the substance of the complaint really embodies, as before, the different kinds of injuries above explained.


Do It Yourself Legal Forms
Law for the Laymen - Legal Remedies
Page Updated 7:47 PM Saturday 4/4/2015