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An actual dispute between individuals who seek judicial resolution of their grievances that have arisen from a conflict of their alleged legal rights.

A controversy describes only civil litigation, which is intended to protect and enforce private rights. In contrast, the term case applies to both a civil action and a criminal prosecution, designed to enforce and safeguard the rights of the general public.

The judicial power of a court to provide redress of wrongs exists only when issues arise in a given situation that can be categorized as a case or controversy.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. 1) disagreement, argument, or quarrel. 2) a dispute, which must be an actual contested issue between parties in order to be heard by a court. The United States Supreme Court particularly requires an "actual controversy" and avoids giving "what if" advisory opinions. (See: advisory opinion, collusion)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

CONTROVERSY. A dispute arising between two or more persons. It differs from case, which includes all suits criminal as well as civil; whereas controversy is a civil and not a criminal proceeding. 2 Dall. R. 419, 431, 432; 1 Tuck. Bl. Com. App. 420, 421; Story, Const. Sec. 1668.
     2. By the constitution of the United States the judicial power shall extend to controversies to which the United States shall be a party. Art. 2, 1. The meaning to be attached to the word controversy in the constitution, is that above given.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
blotting out--crossed stabs of controversion. Osterbauer could have.
This is hardly surprising, given the supremacist nature of mainstream, classical Islamic doctrine and practice for over a millennium, through the present era, as the great Orientalist[2] Gustave[3] von Grunebaum[4] observed in 1971: Islam is interested in making the world safe for Islam, in getting Islam into the controlling position and making it possible for Islam to be practiced perfectly, completely, and without any danger of controversion or subversion wherever Islam wishes to be practiced.
Moving from perversion to controversion, the final chapter, 'The Controversy of Dissidence: Nietzsche', 'examines Nietzsche's deicide and concludes that: 'Henceforth, whichever way we walk, we are all on Nietzsche's path' (243).