English common law courts developed a complex process of pleading in civil suits that required the parties to file a series of legal documents, or pleadings, in order to define the dispute precisely. Courts in England’s American colonies and, later, in the United States adopted this pleading system. The plaintiff laid out the cause of action in a declaration, which the defendant answered in a plea. The defendant could file either a single plea that presented a general denial of the declaration or multiple pleas that responded to specific points or counts in the declaration.