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What is Litigation?
Litigation means a lawsuit. The statement above pretty much sums up litigation in a nutshell: litigation is about putting the facts to test. Do not confuse "the facts" with what actually happened. For the purposes of a lawsuit, "the facts" means what you can prove, and "proving" means convincing the jury (or judge), who will decide what "the facts" are for the purpose of your dispute. In discussion litigation generally, we refer to the judge or jury as the factfinder, because which we have depends on many factors, but the job of the factfinder is ultimately the same: to decide which "facts" are true, which witnesses are credible, and which of the allegations hold water.
What is Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation is a conflict between two or more parties, and is distinguished from criminal litigation, which is generally referred to as criminal prosecution. In criminal prosecution, the State is the plaintiff, complaining on behalf of Society. Contrary to a common misperception, the person who "files charges" is not a plaintiff in criminal litigation, but merely a witness. (In criminal prosecution, even the victim is really just another witness, but with special status.) While the State can be a party to civil litigation, in civil litigation the State does not mean society as a whole, but rather the government as an agency.
In civil litigation, a party who 'brings charges' is the Plaintiff, and a lawsuit is almost always started by filing a Complaint with the Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court then issues a Summons, and it is the plaintiff's responsibility to ensure that the Defendant - the party you're complaining about - is served with (receives) a copy of the Summons (which notifies the defendant that he or she must do something or the court will find in the plaintiff's favor) and the Complaint (which notifies the defendant just what you're complaining about, so she or he can then decide how to respond, or 'answer.'
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