Rule 2 – One Form of Action

There is one form of action—the civil action.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 2 is succinct and foundational, stating: “There is one form of action—the civil action.”

This rule marks a significant simplification in procedural law, abolishing the traditional distinction between “actions at law” and “suits in equity” that previously existed in the United States federal courts. Before the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were adopted in 1938, these two types of cases were handled under different sets of rules, with actions at law typically involving monetary damages and suits in equity dealing with non-monetary relief such as injunctions or specific performance.

Here’s what FRCP 2 means and its implications:

  1. Unified Legal Procedure: By establishing a single form of civil action, FRCP 2 streamlined and simplified court procedures, making the legal process more straightforward and accessible. This unification helps to reduce complexity, making it easier for litigants to pursue their claims without getting bogged down by technical distinctions related to the nature of their case.
  2. Flexibility in Relief: The rule allows for greater flexibility in the types of relief that can be granted. Since there is no longer a strict separation between law and equity, a single case can encompass claims that would have previously required separate actions. For example, a plaintiff can seek both monetary damages and injunctive relief in the same lawsuit.
  3. Efficiency in Legal Proceedings: By eliminating the need to pursue different types of remedies through separate legal pathways, FRCP 2 facilitates a more efficient use of judicial resources. This consolidation aims to expedite the resolution of disputes, reduce legal costs, and minimize procedural hurdles for litigants.
  4. Historical Context: This rule reflects a broader trend in the evolution of the American legal system towards procedural modernization and harmonization. It embodies the principles of fairness and efficiency that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seek to promote in federal civil litigation.

In summary, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 2 is a cornerstone of the modern American legal system, representing a move towards simplification and efficiency in civil litigation. It underscores the commitment to a unified and accessible legal process, allowing for a more straightforward path to justice for all parties involved.


(As amended Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

1. This rule modifies U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §384 (Suits in equity, when not sustainable). U.S.C., Title 28, §§723 and 730 [see 2071 et seq.] (conferring power on the Supreme Court to make rules of practice in equity), are unaffected insofar as they relate to the rule making power in admiralty. These sections, together with §723b [see 2072] (Rules in actions at law; Supreme Court authorized to make) are continued insofar as they are not inconsistent with §723c [see 2072] (Union of equity and action at law rules; power of Supreme Court). See Note 3 to Rule 1. U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §§724 (Conformity act), 397 (Amendments to pleadings when case brought to wrong side of court) and 398 (Equitable defenses and equitable relief in actions at law) are superseded. 2. Reference to actions at law or suits in equity in all statutes should now be treated as referring to the civil action prescribed in these rules. 3. This rule follows in substance the usual introductory statements to code practices which provide for a single action and mode of procedure, with abolition of forms of action and procedural distinctions. Representative statutes are N.Y. Code 1848 (Laws 1848, ch. 379) §62; N.Y.C.P.A. (1937) §8; Calif.Code Civ.Proc. (Deering, 1937) §307; 2 Minn.Stat. (Mason, 1927) §9164; 2 Wash.Rev.Stat.Ann. (Remington, 1932) §§153, 255.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 2 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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