Civil law is the area of laws and justice which affect individual legal status. Civil law, in this sense, is usually referred to in comparison to criminal law, which is the body of law involving the state against individuals (including legal persons such as corporations and Non-Profit Organisations, other than physical human beings), where the state relies on power given by statutory law. Civil law can be compared to military law, administrative law and constitutional law (the laws governing the political and law making process), and international law. When there are legal options for actions caused by individuals within any of these areas of law, it becomes civil law.

Civil law courts provide a forum for deciding disputes involving tort (such as accidents, negligence, and libel), contract disputes, the probate of wills, trusts, property disputes, administrative law, commercial law, and any other private matters that involve private parties and other groups including government institutions. An action by an individual (or legal equivalent) against the attorney general is a civil matter, but when the state, being represented by the prosecutor for the attorney general, or some other agent for the state, takes action against an individual (or legal equivalent, including for example, a department of the government), this is public law, not civil law.