ACT - Black's Law Dictionary

What is ACT? Definition of ACT in Black's Law Dictionary

ACT, v.

In Scotch practice. To do or perform judicially; to enter of record. Surety "acted in the Books of Adjournal." 1 Broun, 4.

ACT, n.

Denotes affirmative; expression of will, purpose; carries idea of performance; primarily that which is done or doing; exercise of power, or effect of which power exerted is cause; a performance; a deed. Brown v. Standard Casket Mfg.*Co., 234 Ala. 512, 175 So. 358, 364.

In its most general sense, this noun signifies something done voluntarily by a person; the exercise of an individual's power ; an effect produced in the external world by an exercise of the power of a person objectively, prompted by intention, and proximately caused by a motion of the will. Herman v. Pan American Life Ins. Co., 183 La. 1045, 165 So. 195, 200. In a more technical sense, it means something done voluntarily by a person, aria of such a nature that certain legal consequences attach to it. Jefferson Standard Life Ins. Co. v. Myers, Tex.Com.App., 284 S.W. 216, 218. Thus a grantor acknowledges the conveyance to be his "act and deed," the terms being synonymous. It May denote something done by an individual, as a private citizen, or as an officer ; or by a body of men, as a legislature, a council, or a court of justice; including not merely physical acts, but also decrees, edicts, laws, judgments, resolves, awards, and determinations. Some general laws made by the Congress of the United States are styled joint resolutions, and these have the same force and effect as those styled acts. But see Decher v. Vaughan, 209 Mich. 565, 177 N.W. 388, 392. Carries idea of performance. Edmonds v. Shirley, 22 Ala.App. 398, 116 So. 303.

An instrument in writing to verify facts. Webster, Dict.

It is used in this sense of the published acts of assembly, congress, etc. In a sense approaching this, it has been held in trials for treason that letters and other written documents were acts; 1 Fost.Cr.Cas. 198; 2 Stark. 116.

Act indicates the intention. 8 Co. 146b; Broom, Max. 301.

Civil Law

An act is a writing which states in a legal form that a thing has been said, done, or agreed. Merl. Repert.

Acts under private signature are those which have been 'made by private individuals under their hands.

Private acts are those made by private persons as registers in relation to their receipts and expenditures, schedules, acquittances, and the like.

Public acts are those which have a public authority, and which have been made before public officers, are authorized by a public seal, have been made public by the authority of a magistrate, or which have been extracted and been properly authenticated from public records.


A written law, formally ordained or passed by the legislative power of a state, called in England an "act of parliament," and in the United States an "act of congress," or of the "legislature;" a statute. People v.  Tiphaine, 3 Parker, Cr.R. (N. Y.) 241; United States v. Smith, 27 Fed.Cas. 1167.

The words bill and law are frequently used synonymously with act, People v. City of Buffalo, 161 N.Y.S. 706, 712, 175 App.Div. 218, but incorrectly; Sedgwick County Com'rs v. Bailey, 13 Kan. 600; a bill being only the draft or form of the act presented to the legislature but not enacted; Southwark Bank v. Corn., 26  Pa.  446.  "Act" does not include ordinances or regulations made by local authorities, or even statutes having only a local application; People v. City of Buffalo, 157 N.Y.S. 938, 940, 93 Misc. 275; although sometimes used interchangeably with "measure" and "law" ; Whittemore v. Terral, 140 Ark. 493, 215 S.W. 686, 687. Generally, the word refers to entire statute enacted, rather than to a section. Board of Trustees of Firemen's Relief and Pension Fund of City of Muskogee v. Templeton, 184 Okl. 281, 86 P.2d 1000, 1002.

Acts are either public or private. Public acts  (also called general acts, or general statutes, or statutes at large) are those which relate to the community generally, or establish a universal rule for the governance of the whole body politic. Private acts (formerly called special, Co. Litt. 126a) are those which relate either to particular persons (personal acts) or to particular places (local acts), or which operate only upon specified individuals or their private concerns. Unity v. Burrage, 103 U.S. 454, 26 L.Ed. 465 Public acts are those which concern the whole community and of which courts of law are bound to take judicial notice. Sasser v. Martin, 101 Ga. 447, 29 S.E. 278.

A "special" or "private" act is one operating only on particular persons and private concerns; a "local act" is one applicable only to a particular part of the legislative jurisdiction. Trumper v. School Dist. No. 55 of Musselshell County, 55 Mont., 90, 173 P. 946, 947.

To denote an avowal of criminal acts, or the concession of the truth of a criminal charge, the word "confession" seems more appropriate.


Anything done by a court and reduced to writing; a decree, judgment, resolve, rule, order, or other judicial proceeding. In Scotch law, the orders and decrees of a court, and in French and German law, all the records and documents in an action, are called "acts."

Scotch Practice

An abbreviation of actor, (proctor or advocate, especially for a plaintiff or pursuer,) used in records. "Act. A. Alt. B." an abbreviation of Actor, A. Alter, B.; that is, for the pursuer or plaintiff, A., for the defender, B. 1 Broun, 336, note.

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