Equity

Equity in the United States

Contents:

Decisions based on a judge’s sense of fairness rather than strict common law standards. The equity model permits judges to issue remedies in civil cases based on equitable principles that are outside or that supplement common law. Some of the flexibility of equity jurisdiction, however, has been lessened by the tendency of judges to follow precedents established in earlier equity cases. Cases in equity differ from other civil actions at law or common law because of the nature of the relief or remedy sought. In equity actions, damages are not readily remedied by monetary damage awards (although equitable relief may be supplemented by awards of monetary damages). Equitable relief may, for example, be appropriate in situations like environmental contamination or school discrimination where money may be insufficient, in itself, to arrest or repair the injury. In such cases, the plaintiff carries a heavier burden than in other civil cases because it must be shown that injury is permanent and therefore irreparable by mere payment of damages.

See Also

Common Law (Judicial Function) Equity Jurisdiction (Judicial Function) Injunction (Judicial Function) Irreparable Injury (Judicial Function).

Analysis and Relevance

Considerations of equity in American courts protect against unjust results stemming from too rigid application of common law principles. Although courts of equity are structurally separate in Great Britain, equity jurisdiction in the United States is placed in the same courts that possess jurisdiction over statutory and common law. Equity relief is normally provided by a court in one of two ways, an injunction or court order. Injunctive relief is designed to preserve the status quo until such time as the merits of the cases can be adjudicated. Such remedy begins as a temporary order but may become permanent upon completion of a trial or other formal proceeding. The court order, on the other hand, requires a party to perform a certain act. Such a court order is actually the positive form of an injunction. Orders of this kind are more likely in the school discrimination action while the injunction is more likely in an environmental protection suit.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Equity from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Equity Definition

A right which is established and enforced in accordance with the principles of equity jurisprudence under some general principle or acknowledged rule governing courts of equity. 208 111. 244. A branch of remedial justice by and through which relief is afforded to suitors > in the courts of equity. In the broad sense in which this term is sometimes used, it signifies natural .justice. In a more limited application, it denotes equal justice between contending parties. This is its moral signification, in reference to the rights of parties having conflicting claims; but applied to courts and their jurisdiction and proceedings, it has a more restrained and limited signification. One division of courts is into courts of law and courts of equity; and equity, in this relation and application, is a branch of remedial justice by and through which relief is afforded to suitors in the courts of equity. The difference between the remedial justice of the courts of common law and that of the courts of equity is marked and material. That administered by the courts of law is limited by the principles of the common law (which are to a great extent positive and inflexible), and especially by the nature and character of the process and pleadings, and of the judgments which those courts can render; because the pleadings cannot fully present all the matters in controversy, nor can the judgments be adapted to the special exigencies which may exist in particular cases. It is not uncommon, also, for cases to fail in those courts, from the fact that too few or too many persons have been joined as parties, or because the pleadings have not been framed with sufficient technical precision. The remedial process of the courts of equity, on the other hand, admits, and generally, requires, that all persons having an interest shall be made parties, and makes a large allowance for amendments by summoning and discharging parties after the commencement of the suit. The pleadings are usually framed so as to present to the consideration of the court the whole case, with its possible legal rights, and all its equities, that is, all the grounds upon which the suitor ‘is or is not entitled to relief upon the principles of equity. And its final remedial process may be so varied as to meet the requirements of these eqmties, in cases where the jurisdiction of the courts of equity exists, by commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong. In other words, its final process is varied so as to enable the courts to do that equitable justice between the parties which the case clemands, either by commanding what is to be done, or prohibiting what is threatened to be done. The principles upon which, and the modes and forms by and through which, justice is administered in the United States, are derived to a great extent from those which were in existence in England at the time of the settlement of this country, and it is therefore important to a correct understanding of the nature and character of our own jurisprudence, not only to trace it back to its introduction here on the early settlement of the colonies, but also to trace the English jurisprudence from its earliest inception as the administration of law founded on principles, down to that period. It is in this way that we are enabled to explain many things in our own practice which would otherwise be entirely obscure. This is particularly true of the principles which regulate the jurisdiction and practice of the courts of equity, ,and of the principles of equity as they are now applied and administered in the courts of law which at the present day have equitable jurisdiction conferred upon them by statutes passed for that purpose. And for the purpose of a competent understanding of the course of decisions in the courts of equity in England, it is necessary to refer to the origin of the equitable jurisdiction there, and to trace its history, inquiring upon what principles it was originally founded, and how it has been enlarged and sustained. The study of equity jurisprudence, therefore, comprises an inquiry into the origin and history of the courts of equity; the distinctive principles upon which jurisdiction in equity is founded; the nature, character, and extent of the jurisdiction itself; its peculiar remedies ; the rules and maxims which regulate its administration; its remedial process and proceedings, and modes of defense; and its rules of evidence and practice. Origin and History. The courts of equity may be said to have their origin as far back as the aula or curia regis, the great court in which the king administered justice in person, assisted by his counsellors. Of the officers of this court, the chancellor was one of great trust and confidence, next to the king himself, but his duties do not distinctly appear at the present day. On the dissolution of that court, he exercised separate duties. On the introduction of seals, he had the keeping of the king’s seal, which he affixed to charters and deeds; and he had some authority in relation to the king’s grants, perhaps annulling those which were alleged to have been procured by misrepresentation, or to have been issued unadvisedly. As writs came into use, it was made his duty to frame and issue them from his court, which as early as the reign of Henry II. was known as the chancery. And it is said that he exercised at this period a sort of equitable jurisdiction by which he mitigated the rigor of the common law, to what extent it is impossible to determine. He is spoken of as one who annuls unjust laws, and executes the rightful commands of the pious prince, and puts an end to what is injurious to the people or to morals, which would form a very ample jurisdiction; but it seems probable that this was according to the authority or direction of the king, given from time to time in relation to particular cases. He was a principal member of the king’s council, after the Conquest, in which, among other things, all applications for the special exercise of the prerogative in regard to matters of judicial cognizance were discussed and decided upon. In connection with the council, he exercised a separate authority in cases in which the council directed the suitors to proceed in chancery. The court of chancery is said to have sprung from this council; but it may be said that it had its origin in the prerogative of the king, by which he undertook to administer justice, on petitions to himself, without regard to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, which he did through orders to his chancellor. The great council, or parliament, also sent matters relating to the king’s grants, etc., to the chancery; and it seems that the chancellor, although an ecclesiastic, was the principal actor as regards the judicial business which the select or king’s council, as well as the great council, had to advise upon or transact. In the reign of Edward I., the power and authority of the chancellor were extended by the statute of Westminster II. In the time of Edward III., proceedings in chancery were commenced by petition or bill, the adverse party was summoned, the parties were examined, and chancery appears as a distinct court for giving relief in cases which required extraordinary remedies, the king having, by a writ, referred all such matters as were of grace to be dispatched by the chancellor or by the keeper of the privy seal. It may be considered as fully established, as a separate and permanent jurisdiction, from the 17th of Richard II. In the time of Edward IV., the chancery had come to be regarded as one of the four principal courts of the kingdom. From this time, its jurisdiction and the progress of its jurisdiction become of more importance to us. It is the tendency of any system of legal principles, when reduced to a practical application, to fail of effecting such justice between party and party as the special circumstances of a case may require, by reason of the minuteness and inflexibility of its rules, and the inability of the judges to adapt its remedies to the necessities of the controversy under consideration. This was the case with the Roman law, and, to remedy this, edicts were issued from time to time, which enabled the consuls and praetors to correct the scrupulosity and mischievous subtlety of the law, and from these edicts a code of equitable jurisprudence was compiled. So the principles and rules of the common law, as they were reduced to practice, became in their application the means of injustice in cases where special equitable circumstances existed, of which the judge could not take cognizance because of the precise nature of its titles and rights, the inflexible character of its principles, and the technicality of its pleadings and practice. And, in a manner somewhat analogous to the Roman mode of modification, in order to remedy such hardships, the prerogative of the king, or the authority of the great council, was exercised in ancient times to procure a more equitable measure of justice in the particular case, which was accomplished through the court of chancery. This was followed by the invention of the writ of subpoena, by means of which the chancery assumed, upon a complaint made directly to that court, to require the attendance of the adverse party, to answer to such matters as should be objected against him. Notwithstanding the complaints of the commons, from time to time, that the course of proceeding in chancery was not according to the course of the common law, but the practice of the holy church, the king sustained the authority of the chancellor, the right to issue the writ was recognized and regulated by statute, and other statutes were passed conferring jurisdiction where it had not been taken, before. In this way, without any compilation of a code, a system of equitable jurisprudence was established in the court of chancery, enlarging from time to time; the decisions of the court furnishing an exposition of its principles, and of their application. It is said that the jurisdiction was greatly enlarged under the administration of Cardinal Wolsey, in the time of Henry VIII. A controversy took place between Chancellor Ellesmere and Lord Coke, C. J., of the king’s bench, in the time of James I., respecting the right of the chancellor to interfere with the judgments of the courts of law. The king sustained the chancellor, and from that time the jurisdiction then claimed has been maintained. It is from the study of these decisions, and the commentaries upon them, that we are enabled to determine, with a greater or less degree of certainty, the time when and the grounds upon which jurisdictiori was granted or was taken in particular classes of cases, and the principles upon which it was administered. And it is occasionally of importance to attend to this; because we shall see that, chancery having onfte obtained jurisdiction, that jurisdiction continues until expressly taken away, notwith standing the intervention of such changes as, if they had been made earlier, would have rendered the exercise of jurisdiction by that court incompatible with the principles upon which it is founded. A brief sketch of some of the principal points in the origin and history of the court of chancery may serve to show that much of its jurisdiction exists independent of any statute, and is founded upon an assumption of a power to do equity, having its first inception in the prerogative of the king, and his commands to do justice in individual cases, extending itself, though the action of the chancellor, to the issue of a writ of summons to appear in his court without any special authority for that purpose, and, upon the returri of the subpoena, to the reception of a complaint, to a requirement upon the party summoned to make answer to that complaint, and then to a hearing and decree, or judgment, upon the merits of the matters in controversy, according to the rules of equity and good conscience. It appears as a noticeable fact that the jurisdiction of the chancery proceeded originally from, and was sustained by, successive kings of England against the repeated remonstrances of the commons, who were for adhering to the common law; though not perhaps, approving of all its rigors, as equity had been to some extent acknowledged as a rule of decision in the commonlaw courts. This opposition of the commons may have been owing in part to the fact that the chancellor was in those days usually an ecclesiastic, and to the existing antipathy among the masses of the people to almost everything Roman. The master of the rolls, who for a long period was a judicial officer of the court of chancery, second only to the chancellor, was originally a clerk or keeper of the rolls or records, but seems to have acquired his judicial authority from being at times directed by the king to take cognizance of and determine matters submitted to him. Distinctive Principles. It is quite apparent that some principles other than those of the common law must regulate the exercise of such a jurisdiction. That law could not mitigate its rigor upon its own principles. And as, down to the time of Edward III., and, with few exceptions, to the 21st of Henry VIII., the chancellors were ecclesiastics, much more familiar with the principles of the Roman law than with those of the common law, it was but a matter of course that there should be a larger adoption of the principles of that law, and the study of it is of some importance in this connection. Still, that law cannot be said to be of authority, even in equity proceedings. The commons were jealous of its introduction. In the reign of Richard II., the barons protested that they would never suffer the kingdom to be governed by the Roman law, and the judges prohibited it (torn being any longer cited in- the commonlaw tribunals. This opposition of the barons and of the common-law judges furnished very suflBcient reasons why the chancellors should not profess to adopt that law as the rule of decision. In addition to this, it was not fitted, in many respects, to the state of things existing in England; and so the chancellors were of. necessity compelled to act upon equitable principles as expounded by themselves. In later times, the common-law judges in that country have resorted to the Roman law for principles of decision to a much greater extent than they have given credit to it. Since the time of Henry VIII., the chancery bench has been occupied by some of the ablest lawyers which England has produced, and they have given to the proceedings and practice in equity definite rules and forms, which leave little to the personal discretion of the chancellor in determining what equity and good conscience require. The discretion of the chancellor is a judicial discretion, to be exercised according to the principles and practice of the court. The avowed principle upon which the jurisdiction was at first exercised was the administration of justice according to honesty, equity, and conscience, which last, it is said, was unknown to the common law as a principle of decision. In the 15th of Richard II., two petitions, addressed to the king and the lords of parliament, were sent to the chancery to be heard, with the direction, Let there be done, by the authority of parliament, that which right and reason and good faith and good conscience demand in the case. These may be said to be the general principles upon which equity is administered at the present day. The distinctive principles of the courts of equity are shown, also, by the classes of cases in which they exercise jurisdiction and give relief; allowing it to be sought and administered through process and proceedings of less formality and technicality than are required in proceedings at law. This, however, has its limitations, some of its rules of pleading in defense being quite technical. And it is another peculiar feature that the relief is administered by a decree or process adapted to the exigencies of the particular case. Jurisdiction. It is difficult to reduce a jurisdiction so extensive, and of such diverse component parts, to a rigid and precise classification; but an approach to it may be made. The general nature of the jurisdiction has already been indicated. It exists First, for the purpose of compelling a discovery from the defendant, respecting the truth of the matters alleged against him, by an appeal to his conscience to speak the truth. The discovery is enforced by requiring an answer to the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint, in order that the plaintiff may use the matters disclosed in the answer as admissions of the defendant, and thus evidence for the plaintiff, either in connection with and in aid of other evidence offered by the plaintiff, or to supply the want of other evidence on his part; or it may be to avoid the expense to which the plaintiff must be put in procuring other evidence to sustain his case. When the plaintiff’s complaint, otherwise called a bill, prays for relief in the same suit, the statements of the defendant in his answer are considered by the court in forming a judgment upon the whole case. To a certain extent, the statements of the defendant in answer to the bill are evidence for himself also. The discovery which may be required is not only of facts within the knowledge of the defendant, but may also be of deeds and other writings in his possession. The right to discovery is not, however, an unlimited one; as, for instance, the defendant is not bound to make a discovery which would subject him to punishment, nor, ordinarily, to discover the title upon which he relies in his defense; nor is the plaintiff entitled to require the production of all papers which he may desire to look into. The limits of the right deserve careful consideration. The discovery, when had, may be the foundation of equitable relief in the same suit, in which case it may be connected with all the classes of cases in which relief is sought; or it may be for the purpose of being used in some other court, in which case the jurisdiction is designated as an assistant jurisdiction. Second, where the courts of law do not, or did not, recognize any right, and therefore could give no remedy, but where the courts of equity recognize equitable rights, and, of course, give equitable relief. This has been denominated the exclusive jurisdiction. In this class are trusts, charities, forfeited and imperfect mortgages, penalties and forfeitures, imperfect consideration. Uses and trusts have been supposed to have had their origin in the restrictions laid by parliament upon conveyances in mortmain, that is, to the church for charitable, or rather for ecclesiastical, purposes. It may well be that the doctrine of equitable titles and estates, unknown to the common law, but which could be enforced in chancery, had its origin in conveyances to individuals for the use of the church in order to avoid the operation of these restrictions; the conscience of the feoffee being bound to permit the church to have the use according to the design and intent of the feoffment. But conveyances in trust for the use of the church were not by any means the only cases in which it was desirable to convey the legal title to one for the use of another. In many instances, such a conveyance offered a convenient mode of making provision for those who, from any circumstances, were unable to manage property advantageously for themselves, or to whom it was not desirable to give the control of it; and the propriety in all such cases of some protection to the beneficiary is quite apparent. The court of chancery, by recognizing that he had an interest of an equitable character which could be protected and enforced against the holder of the legal title, exercised a jurisdiction to give relief in cases which the courts of common law could not reach consistently with their principles and modes of procedure. Mortgages, which were originally estates conveyed upon condition, redeemable if the condition was performed at the day, but absolute on nonperformance, the right to redeem being thereby forfeited, owe their origin to the court of chancery, which, acting at first, perhaps, in some case where the nonperformance was by mistake or accident, soon recognized an equitable right of redemption after the day, as a general rule, in order to relieve against the forfeiture. This became known as an equity of redemption, a designation in use at the present day, although there has long been a legal right of redemption in such cases. Eelief against penalties and forfeitures also was formerly obtained only through the aid of the court of chancery. In most of the cases which fall under this head, courts of law now exercise a concurrent jurisdiction. Third, where the courts of equity administer equitable relief for the infraction of legal rights, in cases in which the courts of law, recognizing the right, give a remedy according to their principles, modes, and forms, but the remedy is deemed by equity inadequate to the requirements of the case. This is sometimes called the concurrent jurisdiction. This class embraces fraud, mistake, accident, administration, legacies, contribution, and cases where justice and conscience require the cancellation or reformation of instruments, or the rescission or the specific performance of contracts. The courts of law relieve against fraud, mistake, and accident where a remedy can be had according to their modes and forms ; but there are many cases in which the legal remedy is inadequate for the purposes of justice. The modes of investigation, and the peculiar remedies of the courts of equity, are often of the greatest importance in this class of cases. Transfers to defeat or delay creditors, and purchasers with notice of an outstanding title, come under the head of fraud. It has been said that there is a less amount of evidence required to prove fraud, in equity, than there is at law, but the soundness of that position may well be doubted. The court does not relieve in all cases of accident and mistake. In many cases, the circumstances are such as to require the cancellation or reformation of written’ instruments, or the specific performance of contracts, instead of damages for the breach of them. Fourth, where the court of equity administers a remedy because the relations of the parties are such that there are impediments to a legal remedy. Partnership furnishes a marked instance. Joint tenancy and marshalling of assets may be included. From the nature of a partnership, there are impediments to suits at law between the several partners and the partnership in relation to matters involved in the partnership; and impediments of a somewhat similar character exist in other cases. Fifth, where the forms of proceeding in the courts of law are not deemed adequate to the due investigation of the particulars and details of the case. This class includes account, partition, dower, ascertainment of boundaries. Sixth, where, from a relation of trust and confidence, or from consanguinity, the parties do not stand on equal ground in their dealings with each other; as, the relations of parent and child, guardian and ward, attorney and client, principal and agent, executor and administrator, legatees and distributees, trustee and cestui que trust, etc. Seventh, where the court grants relief from considerations of public policy, because of the mischief which would result if the court did not interfere. Marriage brokage agreements, contracts in restraint of trade, buying and selling public offices, agreements founded on corrupt considerations, usury, gaming, and contracts with expectant heirs, are of this class. Cases of this and the preceding class are sometimes considered under the head of constructive fraud. Eighth, where a party, from incapacity to take care of his rights, is under the special care of the court of equity, as infants, idiots, and lunatics. This is a branch of jurisdiction of very ancient date, and of a special character, said to be founded in the prerogative of the king. In this country the court does not, in general, assume the guardianship, but exercises an extensive jurisdiction over guardians, and may hold a stranger interfering with the property of an infant accountable as if he were guardian. Ninth, where the court recognizes an obligation on the part of a husband to make provision for the support of his wife, or to make a settlement upon her, out of the property which comes to her by inheritance, or otherwise. This jurisdiction is not founded upon either trust or fraud, but is derived originally from the maxim that h§ who asks equity should do equity. Tenth, where the equitable relief appropriate to the case consists in restraining the commission or continuance of ‘ some act of the defendant, administered by means of a writ of injunction. Eleventh, the court aids in the procuration or preservation of evidence of the rights of a party, to be used, if necessary, in some subsequent proceeding, the court administering no final relief. Peculiar Remedies, and the IVIanner of Administering Tliem. Under this head are specific performance of contracts; reexecution, reformation, rescission, and cancellation of contracts or instruments; restraint by injunction; bills quia timet; bills of peace; protection of a party liable at law, but who has no interest, by bill of interpleader; election between two inconsistent legal rights; conversion; priorities; tacking; marshalling of securities; application of purchase money. In recent periods, the principles of the court of chancery have in many instances been acted on and recognized by the courts of law (as, for instance, in relation to mortgages, contribution, etcv) so far as the rules of the courts of law admitted of their introduction. In some states, the entire jurisdiction has, by statute, been conferred upon the courts of law, who exercise it as a separate and distinct branch of their authority, upon the principles and according to the modes and forms previously adopted in chancery. In a few, the jurisdictions of the courts of law and of equity have been amalgamated, and an entire system has been substituted, administered more according to the principles and modes and forms of equity than the principles and forms of the common law. Rules and iVIaxims. In the administration of the jurisdiction, there are certain rules and maxims which are of special significance. First, equity having once had jurisdiction of a subject matter because there is no remedy at law, or because the remedy is inadequate, does not lose the jurisdiction merely because the courts of law afterwards give the same or a similar relief. Second, equity follows the law. This is true as a general maxim. Equity follows the law, except in relation to those matters which give a title to equitable relief because the rules of law would operate to sanction fraud or injustice in the particular case. Third, when there is equal equity, the law must prevail. The ground upon which the suitor comes into the court of equity is that he is entitled to relief there. But if his adversary has an equally equitable case, the complainant has no title to relief. Fourth, equality is equity. Applied to cases of contribution, apportionment of moneys due among those liable or benefited by the payment, abatement of claims on account of deficiency of the means of payment, etc. Fifth, he who seeks equity must do equity. A party cannot claim the interposition of the court for relief unless he will do what it is equitable should be done by him as a condition precedent to that relief. Sixth, equity considers that as done which ought to have been done. A maxim of much more limited application than might at first be supposed from the broad terms in which it is expressed. In favor of parties who would have had a benefit from something contracted to be done, and who have an equitable right to have the case considered as if it had been done, equity applies this maxim. Illustration: When there is an agreement for a sale of land, and the vendor dies, the land may be treated as money, and the proceeds of the sale, when completed, go to the distributees of personal estate, instead of to the heir. If the vendee dies before the completion of the purchase, the purchase money may be treated as land for the benefit of the heir. Remedial Process and Defense. A suit in equity is ordinarily instituted by a complaint or petition, called a bill; and the defendant is served with a writ of summons, requiring him to appear and answer, called a subpoena. The forms of proceedings in equity are such as to bring the rights of all persons interested before the court; and, as a general rule, all persons interested should be made parties to the bill, either as plaintiffs or defendants. There may be amendments of the bill; or a supplemental bill, which is sometimes necessary when the case is beyond the stage for amendment. In case the suit fails by the death of the party, there is a bill of revivor, and, after the cause is disposed of, there may be a bill of review. The defense is made by demurrer, plea, or answer. If the defendant has no interest, he may disclaim. Discovery may be obtained from the plaintiff, and further matter may be introduced, by means of a cross bill, brought by the defendant against the plaintiff, in order that it may be considered at the same time. If the plaintiff elects, he may file a replication to the defendant’s answer. The final process is directed by the decree, which, being a special judgment, can provide relief according to the nature of the case. This is sometimes by a perpetual injunction. There may be a bill to execute or to impeach a decree. Evidence and Practice. The rules of evidence, except as to the effect of the answer and the taking of the testimony, are, in general, similar to the rules of evidence in cases at law; but to this there are exceptions. The answer, if made on oath, is evidence for the defendant, so far as it is responsive to the calls of the bill for discovery, and as such it prevails, unless it is overcome by something more than what is equivalent to the testimony of one witness. If without oath, it is a mere pleading, and the allegations stand for proof. If the answer is incomplete or improper, the plaintiff may except to it, and it must be so amended as to be made sufficient and proper. The case may be heard on the bill and answer, if the plaintiff so elects, and sets the case down for a hearing in that mode. If the plaintiff desires to controvert any of the statements in the answer, he files a replication by which he denies the truth of the allegations in the answer, and testimony is taken. The testimony, according to the former practice in chancery, is taken upon interrogatories filed in the clerk’s office, and propounded by the examiner, without the presence of the parties; but this practice has been very extensively modified. If ‘any of the testimony is improper, there is a motion to suppress it. The case may be referred to a master to state the accounts between the parties, or to make such other report as the case may require; and there may be an examination of the parties in the master’s office. Exceptions may be taken to his report. The hearing of the case is before the equity judge, who may make interlocutory orders or decrees, and who pronounces the final decree or judgment. There may be a rehearing, if sufficient cause is shown. At the present day, in England and in several of the United States, the proceedings are very much simplified.

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A right which is established and enforced in accordance with the principles of equity jurisprudence under some general principle or acknowledged rule governing courts of equity. 208 111. 244. A branch of remedial justice by and through which relief is afforded to suitors > in the courts of equity. In the broad sense in which this term is sometimes used, it signifies natural .justice. In a more limited application, it denotes equal justice between contending parties. This is its moral signification, in reference to the rights of parties having conflicting claims; but applied to courts and their jurisdiction and proceedings, it has a more restrained and limited signification. One division of courts is into courts of law and courts of equity; and equity, in this relation and application, is a branch of remedial justice by and through which relief is afforded to suitors in the courts of equity. The difference between the remedial justice of the courts of common law and that of the courts of equity is marked and material. That administered by the courts of law is limited by the principles of the common law (which are to a great extent positive and inflexible), and especially by the nature and character of the process and pleadings, and of the judgments which those courts can render; because the pleadings cannot fully present all the matters in controversy, nor can the judgments be adapted to the special exigencies which may exist in particular cases. It is not uncommon, also, for cases to fail in those courts, from the fact that too few or too many persons have been joined as parties, or because the pleadings have not been framed with sufficient technical precision. The remedial process of the courts of equity, on the other hand, admits, and generally, requires, that all persons having an interest shall be made parties, and makes a large allowance for amendments by summoning and discharging parties after the commencement of the suit. The pleadings are usually framed so as to present to the consideration of the court the whole case, with its possible legal rights, and all its equities, that is, all the grounds upon which the suitor ‘is or is not entitled to relief upon the principles of equity. And its final remedial process may be so varied as to meet the requirements of these eqmties, in cases where the jurisdiction of the courts of equity exists, by commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong. In other words, its final process is varied so as to enable the courts to do that equitable justice between the parties which the case clemands, either by commanding what is to be done, or prohibiting what is threatened to be done. The principles upon which, and the modes and forms by and through which, justice is administered in the United States, are derived to a great extent from those which were in existence in England at the time of the settlement of this country, and it is therefore important to a correct understanding of the nature and character of our own jurisprudence, not only to trace it back to its introduction here on the early settlement of the colonies, but also to trace the English jurisprudence from its earliest inception as the administration of law founded on principles, down to that period. It is in this way that we are enabled to explain many things in our own practice which would otherwise be entirely obscure. This is particularly true of the principles which regulate the jurisdiction and practice of the courts of equity, ,and of the principles of equity as they are now applied and administered in the courts of law which at the present day have equitable jurisdiction conferred upon them by statutes passed for that purpose. And for the purpose of a competent understanding of the course of decisions in the courts of equity in England, it is necessary to refer to the origin of the equitable jurisdiction there, and to trace its history, inquiring upon what principles it was originally founded, and how it has been enlarged and sustained. The study of equity jurisprudence, therefore, comprises an inquiry into the origin and history of the courts of equity; the distinctive principles upon which jurisdiction in equity is founded; the nature, character, and extent of the jurisdiction itself; its peculiar remedies ; the rules and maxims which regulate its administration; its remedial process and proceedings, and modes of defense; and its rules of evidence and practice. Origin and History. The courts of equity may be said to have their origin as far back as the aula or curia regis, the great court in which the king administered justice in person, assisted by his counsellors. Of the officers of this court, the chancellor was one of great trust and confidence, next to the king himself, but his duties do not distinctly appear at the present day. On the dissolution of that court, he exercised separate duties. On the introduction of seals, he had the keeping of the king’s seal, which he affixed to charters and deeds; and he had some authority in relation to the king’s grants, perhaps annulling those which were alleged to have been procured by misrepresentation, or to have been issued unadvisedly. As writs came into use, it was made his duty to frame and issue them from his court, which as early as the reign of Henry II. was known as the chancery. And it is said that he exercised at this period a sort of equitable jurisdiction by which he mitigated the rigor of the common law, to what extent it is impossible to determine. He is spoken of as one who annuls unjust laws, and executes the rightful commands of the pious prince, and puts an end to what is injurious to the people or to morals, which would form a very ample jurisdiction; but it seems probable that this was according to the authority or direction of the king, given from time to time in relation to particular cases. He was a principal member of the king’s council, after the Conquest, in which, among other things, all applications for the special exercise of the prerogative in regard to matters of judicial cognizance were discussed and decided upon. In connection with the council, he exercised a separate authority in cases in which the council directed the suitors to proceed in chancery. The court of chancery is said to have sprung from this council; but it may be said that it had its origin in the prerogative of the king, by which he undertook to administer justice, on petitions to himself, without regard to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, which he did through orders to his chancellor. The great council, or parliament, also sent matters relating to the king’s grants, etc., to the chancery; and it seems that the chancellor, although an ecclesiastic, was the principal actor as regards the judicial business which the select or king’s council, as well as the great council, had to advise upon or transact. In the reign of Edward I., the power and authority of the chancellor were extended by the statute of Westminster II. In the time of Edward III., proceedings in chancery were commenced by petition or bill, the adverse party was summoned, the parties were examined, and chancery appears as a distinct court for giving relief in cases which required extraordinary remedies, the king having, by a writ, referred all such matters as were of grace to be dispatched by the chancellor or by the keeper of the privy seal. It may be considered as fully established, as a separate and permanent jurisdiction, from the 17th of Richard II. In the time of Edward IV., the chancery had come to be regarded as one of the four principal courts of the kingdom. From this time, its jurisdiction and the progress of its jurisdiction become of more importance to us. It is the tendency of any system of legal principles, when reduced to a practical application, to fail of effecting such justice between party and party as the special circumstances of a case may require, by reason of the minuteness and inflexibility of its rules, and the inability of the judges to adapt its remedies to the necessities of the controversy under consideration. This was the case with the Roman law, and, to remedy this, edicts were issued from time to time, which enabled the consuls and praetors to correct the scrupulosity and mischievous subtlety of the law, and from these edicts a code of equitable jurisprudence was compiled. So the principles and rules of the common law, as they were reduced to practice, became in their application the means of injustice in cases where special equitable circumstances existed, of which the judge could not take cognizance because of the precise nature of its titles and rights, the inflexible character of its principles, and the technicality of its pleadings and practice. And, in a manner somewhat analogous to the Roman mode of modification, in order to remedy such hardships, the prerogative of the king, or the authority of the great council, was exercised in ancient times to procure a more equitable measure of justice in the particular case, which was accomplished through the court of chancery. This was followed by the invention of the writ of subpoena, by means of which the chancery assumed, upon a complaint made directly to that court, to require the attendance of the adverse party, to answer to such matters as should be objected against him. Notwithstanding the complaints of the commons, from time to time, that the course of proceeding in chancery was not according to the course of the common law, but the practice of the holy church, the king sustained the authority of the chancellor, the right to issue the writ was recognized and regulated by statute, and other statutes were passed conferring jurisdiction where it had not been taken, before. In this way, without any compilation of a code, a system of equitable jurisprudence was established in the court of chancery, enlarging from time to time; the decisions of the court furnishing an exposition of its principles, and of their application. It is said that the jurisdiction was greatly enlarged under the administration of Cardinal Wolsey, in the time of Henry VIII. A controversy took place between Chancellor Ellesmere and Lord Coke, C. J., of the king’s bench, in the time of James I., respecting the right of the chancellor to interfere with the judgments of the courts of law. The king sustained the chancellor, and from that time the jurisdiction then claimed has been maintained. It is from the study of these decisions, and the commentaries upon them, that we are enabled to determine, with a greater or less degree of certainty, the time when and the grounds upon which jurisdictiori was granted or was taken in particular classes of cases, and the principles upon which it was administered. And it is occasionally of importance to attend to this; because we shall see that, chancery having onfte obtained jurisdiction, that jurisdiction continues until expressly taken away, notwith standing the intervention of such changes as, if they had been made earlier, would have rendered the exercise of jurisdiction by that court incompatible with the principles upon which it is founded. A brief sketch of some of the principal points in the origin and history of the court of chancery may serve to show that much of its jurisdiction exists independent of any statute, and is founded upon an assumption of a power to do equity, having its first inception in the prerogative of the king, and his commands to do justice in individual cases, extending itself, though the action of the chancellor, to the issue of a writ of summons to appear in his court without any special authority for that purpose, and, upon the returri of the subpoena, to the reception of a complaint, to a requirement upon the party summoned to make answer to that complaint, and then to a hearing and decree, or judgment, upon the merits of the matters in controversy, according to the rules of equity and good conscience. It appears as a noticeable fact that the jurisdiction of the chancery proceeded originally from, and was sustained by, successive kings of England against the repeated remonstrances of the commons, who were for adhering to the common law; though not perhaps, approving of all its rigors, as equity had been to some extent acknowledged as a rule of decision in the commonlaw courts. This opposition of the commons may have been owing in part to the fact that the chancellor was in those days usually an ecclesiastic, and to the existing antipathy among the masses of the people to almost everything Roman. The master of the rolls, who for a long period was a judicial officer of the court of chancery, second only to the chancellor, was originally a clerk or keeper of the rolls or records, but seems to have acquired his judicial authority from being at times directed by the king to take cognizance of and determine matters submitted to him. Distinctive Principles. It is quite apparent that some principles other than those of the common law must regulate the exercise of such a jurisdiction. That law could not mitigate its rigor upon its own principles. And as, down to the time of Edward III., and, with few exceptions, to the 21st of Henry VIII., the chancellors were ecclesiastics, much more familiar with the principles of the Roman law than with those of the common law, it was but a matter of course that there should be a larger adoption of the principles of that law, and the study of it is of some importance in this connection. Still, that law cannot be said to be of authority, even in equity proceedings. The commons were jealous of its introduction. In the reign of Richard II., the barons protested that they would never suffer the kingdom to be governed by the Roman law, and the judges prohibited it (torn being any longer cited in- the commonlaw tribunals. This opposition of the barons and of the common-law judges furnished very suflBcient reasons why the chancellors should not profess to adopt that law as the rule of decision. In addition to this, it was not fitted, in many respects, to the state of things existing in England; and so the chancellors were of. necessity compelled to act upon equitable principles as expounded by themselves. In later times, the common-law judges in that country have resorted to the Roman law for principles of decision to a much greater extent than they have given credit to it. Since the time of Henry VIII., the chancery bench has been occupied by some of the ablest lawyers which England has produced, and they have given to the proceedings and practice in equity definite rules and forms, which leave little to the personal discretion of the chancellor in determining what equity and good conscience require. The discretion of the chancellor is a judicial discretion, to be exercised according to the principles and practice of the court. The avowed principle upon which the jurisdiction was at first exercised was the administration of justice according to honesty, equity, and conscience, which last, it is said, was unknown to the common law as a principle of decision. In the 15th of Richard II., two petitions, addressed to the king and the lords of parliament, were sent to the chancery to be heard, with the direction, Let there be done, by the authority of parliament, that which right and reason and good faith and good conscience demand in the case. These may be said to be the general principles upon which equity is administered at the present day. The distinctive principles of the courts of equity are shown, also, by the classes of cases in which they exercise jurisdiction and give relief; allowing it to be sought and administered through process and proceedings of less formality and technicality than are required in proceedings at law. This, however, has its limitations, some of its rules of pleading in defense being quite technical. And it is another peculiar feature that the relief is administered by a decree or process adapted to the exigencies of the particular case. Jurisdiction. It is difficult to reduce a jurisdiction so extensive, and of such diverse component parts, to a rigid and precise classification; but an approach to it may be made. The general nature of the jurisdiction has already been indicated. It exists First, for the purpose of compelling a discovery from the defendant, respecting the truth of the matters alleged against him, by an appeal to his conscience to speak the truth. The discovery is enforced by requiring an answer to the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint, in order that the plaintiff may use the matters disclosed in the answer as admissions of the defendant, and thus evidence for the plaintiff, either in connection with and in aid of other evidence offered by the plaintiff, or to supply the want of other evidence on his part; or it may be to avoid the expense to which the plaintiff must be put in procuring other evidence to sustain his case. When the plaintiff’s complaint, otherwise called a bill, prays for relief in the same suit, the statements of the defendant in his answer are considered by the court in forming a judgment upon the whole case. To a certain extent, the statements of the defendant in answer to the bill are evidence for himself also. The discovery which may be required is not only of facts within the knowledge of the defendant, but may also be of deeds and other writings in his possession. The right to discovery is not, however, an unlimited one; as, for instance, the defendant is not bound to make a discovery which would subject him to punishment, nor, ordinarily, to discover the title upon which he relies in his defense; nor is the plaintiff entitled to require the production of all papers which he may desire to look into. The limits of the right deserve careful consideration. The discovery, when had, may be the foundation of equitable relief in the same suit, in which case it may be connected with all the classes of cases in which relief is sought; or it may be for the purpose of being used in some other court, in which case the jurisdiction is designated as an assistant jurisdiction. Second, where the courts of law do not, or did not, recognize any right, and therefore could give no remedy, but where the courts of equity recognize equitable rights, and, of course, give equitable relief. This has been denominated the exclusive jurisdiction. In this class are trusts, charities, forfeited and imperfect mortgages, penalties and forfeitures, imperfect consideration. Uses and trusts have been supposed to have had their origin in the restrictions laid by parliament upon conveyances in mortmain, that is, to the church for charitable, or rather for ecclesiastical, purposes. It may well be that the doctrine of equitable titles and estates, unknown to the common law, but which could be enforced in chancery, had its origin in conveyances to individuals for the use of the church in order to avoid the operation of these restrictions; the conscience of the feoffee being bound to permit the church to have the use according to the design and intent of the feoffment. But conveyances in trust for the use of the church were not by any means the only cases in which it was desirable to convey the legal title to one for the use of another. In many instances, such a conveyance offered a convenient mode of making provision for those who, from any circumstances, were unable to manage property advantageously for themselves, or to whom it was not desirable to give the control of it; and the propriety in all such cases of some protection to the beneficiary is quite apparent. The court of chancery, by recognizing that he had an interest of an equitable character which could be protected and enforced against the holder of the legal title, exercised a jurisdiction to give relief in cases which the courts of common law could not reach consistently with their principles and modes of procedure. Mortgages, which were originally estates conveyed upon condition, redeemable if the condition was performed at the day, but absolute on nonperformance, the right to redeem being thereby forfeited, owe their origin to the court of chancery, which, acting at first, perhaps, in some case where the nonperformance was by mistake or accident, soon recognized an equitable right of redemption after the day, as a general rule, in order to relieve against the forfeiture. This became known as an equity of redemption, a designation in use at the present day, although there has long been a legal right of redemption in such cases. Eelief against penalties and forfeitures also was formerly obtained only through the aid of the court of chancery. In most of the cases which fall under this head, courts of law now exercise a concurrent jurisdiction. Third, where the courts of equity administer equitable relief for the infraction of legal rights, in cases in which the courts of law, recognizing the right, give a remedy according to their principles, modes, and forms, but the remedy is deemed by equity inadequate to the requirements of the case. This is sometimes called the concurrent jurisdiction. This class embraces fraud, mistake, accident, administration, legacies, contribution, and cases where justice and conscience require the cancellation or reformation of instruments, or the rescission or the specific performance of contracts. The courts of law relieve against fraud, mistake, and accident where a remedy can be had according to their modes and forms ; but there are many cases in which the legal remedy is inadequate for the purposes of justice. The modes of investigation, and the peculiar remedies of the courts of equity, are often of the greatest importance in this class of cases. Transfers to defeat or delay creditors, and purchasers with notice of an outstanding title, come under the head of fraud. It has been said that there is a less amount of evidence required to prove fraud, in equity, than there is at law, but the soundness of that position may well be doubted. The court does not relieve in all cases of accident and mistake. In many cases, the circumstances are such as to require the cancellation or reformation of written’ instruments, or the specific performance of contracts, instead of damages for the breach of them. Fourth, where the court of equity administers a remedy because the relations of the parties are such that there are impediments to a legal remedy. Partnership furnishes a marked instance. Joint tenancy and marshalling of assets may be included. From the nature of a partnership, there are impediments to suits at law between the several partners and the partnership in relation to matters involved in the partnership; and impediments of a somewhat similar character exist in other cases. Fifth, where the forms of proceeding in the courts of law are not deemed adequate to the due investigation of the particulars and details of the case. This class includes account, partition, dower, ascertainment of boundaries. Sixth, where, from a relation of trust and confidence, or from consanguinity, the parties do not stand on equal ground in their dealings with each other; as, the relations of parent and child, guardian and ward, attorney and client, principal and agent, executor and administrator, legatees and distributees, trustee and cestui que trust, etc. Seventh, where the court grants relief from considerations of public policy, because of the mischief which would result if the court did not interfere. Marriage brokage agreements, contracts in restraint of trade, buying and selling public offices, agreements founded on corrupt considerations, usury, gaming, and contracts with expectant heirs, are of this class. Cases of this and the preceding class are sometimes considered under the head of constructive fraud. Eighth, where a party, from incapacity to take care of his rights, is under the special care of the court of equity, as infants, idiots, and lunatics. This is a branch of jurisdiction of very ancient date, and of a special character, said to be founded in the prerogative of the king. In this country the court does not, in general, assume the guardianship, but exercises an extensive jurisdiction over guardians, and may hold a stranger interfering with the property of an infant accountable as if he were guardian. Ninth, where the court recognizes an obligation on the part of a husband to make provision for the support of his wife, or to make a settlement upon her, out of the property which comes to her by inheritance, or otherwise. This jurisdiction is not founded upon either trust or fraud, but is derived originally from the maxim that h§ who asks equity should do equity. Tenth, where the equitable relief appropriate to the case consists in restraining the commission or continuance of ‘ some act of the defendant, administered by means of a writ of injunction. Eleventh, the court aids in the procuration or preservation of evidence of the rights of a party, to be used, if necessary, in some subsequent proceeding, the court administering no final relief. Peculiar Remedies, and the IVIanner of Administering Tliem. Under this head are specific performance of contracts; reexecution, reformation, rescission, and cancellation of contracts or instruments; restraint by injunction; bills quia timet; bills of peace; protection of a party liable at law, but who has no interest, by bill of interpleader; election between two inconsistent legal rights; conversion; priorities; tacking; marshalling of securities; application of purchase money. In recent periods, the principles of the court of chancery have in many instances been acted on and recognized by the courts of law (as, for instance, in relation to mortgages, contribution, etcv) so far as the rules of the courts of law admitted of their introduction. In some states, the entire jurisdiction has, by statute, been conferred upon the courts of law, who exercise it as a separate and distinct branch of their authority, upon the principles and according to the modes and forms previously adopted in chancery. In a few, the jurisdictions of the courts of law and of equity have been amalgamated, and an entire system has been substituted, administered more according to the principles and modes and forms of equity than the principles and forms of the common law. Rules and iVIaxims. In the administration of the jurisdiction, there are certain rules and maxims which are of special significance. First, equity having once had jurisdiction of a subject matter because there is no remedy at law, or because the remedy is inadequate, does not lose the jurisdiction merely because the courts of law afterwards give the same or a similar relief. Second, equity follows the law. This is true as a general maxim. Equity follows the law, except in relation to those matters which give a title to equitable relief because the rules of law would operate to sanction fraud or injustice in the particular case. Third, when there is equal equity, the law must prevail. The ground upon which the suitor comes into the court of equity is that he is entitled to relief there. But if his adversary has an equally equitable case, the complainant has no title to relief. Fourth, equality is equity. Applied to cases of contribution, apportionment of moneys due among those liable or benefited by the payment, abatement of claims on account of deficiency of the means of payment, etc. Fifth, he who seeks equity must do equity. A party cannot claim the interposition of the court for relief unless he will do what it is equitable should be done by him as a condition precedent to that relief. Sixth, equity considers that as done which ought to have been done. A maxim of much more limited application than might at first be supposed from the broad terms in which it is expressed. In favor of parties who would have had a benefit from something contracted to be done, and who have an equitable right to have the case considered as if it had been done, equity applies this maxim. Illustration: When there is an agreement for a sale of land, and the vendor dies, the land may be treated as money, and the proceeds of the sale, when completed, go to the distributees of personal estate, instead of to the heir. If the vendee dies before the completion of the purchase, the purchase money may be treated as land for the benefit of the heir. Remedial Process and Defense. A suit in equity is ordinarily instituted by a complaint or petition, called a bill; and the defendant is served with a writ of summons, requiring him to appear and answer, called a subpoena. The forms of proceedings in equity are such as to bring the rights of all persons interested before the court; and, as a general rule, all persons interested should be made parties to the bill, either as plaintiffs or defendants. There may be amendments of the bill; or a supplemental bill, which is sometimes necessary when the case is beyond the stage for amendment. In case the suit fails by the death of the party, there is a bill of revivor, and, after the cause is disposed of, there may be a bill of review. The defense is made by demurrer, plea, or answer. If the defendant has no interest, he may disclaim. Discovery may be obtained from the plaintiff, and further matter may be introduced, by means of a cross bill, brought by the defendant against the plaintiff, in order that it may be considered at the same time. If the plaintiff elects, he may file a replication to the defendant’s answer. The final process is directed by the decree, which, being a special judgment, can provide relief according to the nature of the case. This is sometimes by a perpetual injunction. There may be a bill to execute or to impeach a decree. Evidence and Practice. The rules of evidence, except as to the effect of the answer and the taking of the testimony, are, in general, similar to the rules of evidence in cases at law; but to this there are exceptions. The answer, if made on oath, is evidence for the defendant, so far as it is responsive to the calls of the bill for discovery, and as such it prevails, unless it is overcome by something more than what is equivalent to the testimony of one witness. If without oath, it is a mere pleading, and the allegations stand for proof. If the answer is incomplete or improper, the plaintiff may except to it, and it must be so amended as to be made sufficient and proper. The case may be heard on the bill and answer, if the plaintiff so elects, and sets the case down for a hearing in that mode. If the plaintiff desires to controvert any of the statements in the answer, he files a replication by which he denies the truth of the allegations in the answer, and testimony is taken. The testimony, according to the former practice in chancery, is taken upon interrogatories filed in the clerk’s office, and propounded by the examiner, without the presence of the parties; but this practice has been very extensively modified. If ‘any of the testimony is improper, there is a motion to suppress it. The case may be referred to a master to state the accounts between the parties, or to make such other report as the case may require; and there may be an examination of the parties in the master’s office. Exceptions may be taken to his report. The hearing of the case is before the equity judge, who may make interlocutory orders or decrees, and who pronounces the final decree or judgment. There may be a rehearing, if sufficient cause is shown. At the present day, in England and in several of the United States, the proceedings are very much simplified.

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Notice

This definition of Equity Is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This definition needs to be proofread..

Practical Information

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Courts

A branch of remedial justice by and through which relief is afforded to suitors in chancery court (in U.S. law), or a court of equity. The word equity in the legal sense means “fair dealing,” and that is the purpose of the system of legal rules and procedures known as equity. Remedies at the common law (in U.S. law) in England were frequently inadequate to give the wronged party a fair deal. He or she would then take his or her case to the King’s Chancellor, who tempered the strict letter of the law with fairness. As a result of this practice, chancery courts, in which equity is practiced, were established, presided over by a chancellor in: stead of a judge. A few states still have chancery courts. See table I, american court system (in U.S. law). In the course of its development, equity has established certain fundamental principles or maxims, which the lawyer frequently uses in dictating a brief (in U.S. law). Among these are the following: He or she who seeks equity must do equity. If I seek the return of property that I was induced to sell through fraud (in U.S. law), I must offer to return the purchase price. He or she who comes into equity must come with clean hands. If I induce you to breach (in U.S. law) a contract and to make one with me instead, and then you breach the contract with me, a court of equity will not compel specific performance of your contract with me.

Equity will presume that to be done which should have been done. If I unlawfully take possession of your cow, a calf from the cow will belong to you, because a court of equity will presume that I was holding the cow for you.

Equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights. Where the What is Equity?

For a meaning of it, read Equity in the Legal Dictionary here. Browse and search more U.S. and international free legal definitions and legal terms related to Equity.

Equity

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled EQUITYFirst named (in Article III) among the subjects to which the judicial power “shall extend” are “all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority.” The word “equity” has here a
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Equity Background

In the Third Sector

Some reports show that an organization that prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion creates an environment that respects and values individual difference along varying dimensions.Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.

Equity (Civil Procedure)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of equity. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Civil Procedurein relation to equity is provided. Note that a list of bibliography resources and other aids appears at the end of this entry.

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  • Legal Topics.
  • Further Reading (Articles)

    Pay Equity Laws Provide Patchwork of Remedies, Herizons; April 1, 2002; Robbins, Wendy

    Affirmative Conservatives: a Tory minister hints at more employment equity laws.(LABOUR), Western Standard; October 9, 2006; O’Neill, Terry

    `Equity’ laws can be used as a club, Chicago Sun-Times; November 4, 1989; Katherine Dalton

    Appeals court says university violated gender equity laws: ; Lawsuit against UC-Davis reinstated, Charleston Daily Mail; February 9, 2010; THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    SENATORS INTRODUCE PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT TO STRENGTHEN FEDERAL PAY EQUITY LAWS. States News Service; April 12, 2011

    Watson Urges Study on Pay Equity Laws in Pennsylvania, States News Service; April 8, 2014

    SENS. REED AND WHITEHOUSE INTRODUCE PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT TO STRENGTHEN FEDERAL PAY EQUITY LAWS, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; April 15, 2011

    Standing Watch: Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education Russlynn Ali Is Charged with Enforcing a Wide Range of Education Equity Laws, Diverse Issues in Higher Education; December 22, 2011; Stuart, Reginald

    Mikulski, Delauro Mark Equal Pay Day by Introducing Bill to Close Pay Gap for Women Paycheck Fairness Act Strengthens Federal Pay Equity Laws, States News Service; April 12, 2011

    REID, MIKULSKI, DELAURO MARK EQUAL PAY DAY BY INTRODUCING BILL TO CLOSE PAY GAP FOR WOMEN PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT STRENGTHENS FEDERAL PAY EQUITY LAWS. States News Service; April 12, 2011

    Report: Dist. 87 complies with gender equity laws.(News), Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL); May 25, 2001; Edman, Catherine

    ON EQUAL PAY DAY, GILLIBRAND JOINS SENATE COLLEAGUES IN INTRODUCING BILL TO CLOSE PAY GAP FOR WOMEN PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT STRENGTHENS FEDERAL PAY EQUITY LAWS. States News Service; April 12, 2011

    The Rising Economic Pressures on Non-Equity Law Firm Partners, The Washington Post; January 26, 2014; Anderson, Kenneth

    Texas Home Equity Law Vexes Lenders, Borrowers. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News; December 22, 1998; Golz, Earl

    The Rising Economic Pressures on Non-Equity Law Firm Partners (Posted 2014-01-25 20:12:08), The Washington Post; January 25, 2014; Anderson, Kenneth

    Equity law enforcement starts.(Business Report Weekend), The Sunday Independent (South Africa); November 18, 2007

    Affirmative action, job equity law here to stay; Some MPs blame laws for skills shortage.(News), The Star (South Africa); March 2, 2007

    Affirmative action, job equity law here to stay, says Manuel; Some MPs slate legislation in National Assembly.(News), The Star (South Africa); March 2, 2007

    Manuel dashes calls to scrap affirmative action, job equity law; Some MPs slate legislation in National Assembly.(News), The Star (South Africa); March 2, 2007

    Pay-equity law paying off; The wage gap is narrowing, especially between men and women who work for the state of Minnesota.(NEWS), Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN); November 19, 2002; Hopfensperger, Jean

    Equity in State Statute Topics

    Introduction to Equity (State statute topic)

    The purpose of Equity is to provide a broad appreciation of the Equity legal topic. Select from the list of U.S. legal topics for information (other than Equity).

    Equity Background

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    Further Reading

    Equity meaning

    Latin aequitat- aequitas fairness, justice, from aequus equal, fair

    Equity can refer to an interest in a property not equivalent to the value of the property. This meaning is not our concern here but is mentioned in order to prevent further confusion in an already dense and obscure area of the common law.

    Historically speaking the equity courts assured the function of justice as fairness and corrected the mechanical legalistic application of rules of the law courts.

    The courts of equity arose in England from a need to provide relief for claims that did not conform to the writ system existing in the courts of law. Originally, the courts of equity exercised great discretion in fashioning remedies. Over time, they established precedents, rules, and doctrines of their own that were distinct from those used in the courts of law.

    The courts of equity were instituted by the King, then through his Chancellor to correct the harsh legalism of the law courts. As a special and discretionary correction instance the equity courts imposed moral restrictions upon the plaintiffs and also limited the remedies they would award. While some remedies would only be available at law, others would only be available at equity (namely injunction and specific performance). Thus a procedural legalism developed regqrding legal or equitable jurisdiction. This  legalism however recreated the very problem the equity courts were intended originally to correct! This situation has been remedied somewhat by the fusion of law and equity courts into one general court of first instance both in the U.S. and the U.K. – though the procedural distinctions continue to survive.

    Gilles v. Department of Human Resources Development, 11 Cal.3d 313, 521 P.2d 110.

    Equity in the context of Juvenile and Family Law

    Definition ofEquity published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges:Historically, a system of remedial jurisprudence which grew up separate and distinct from the common law and was not bound by its writs and precedents, so that it could accomplish just relief where the common law could not. The legal system’s exercise of jurisdiction over families and children is founded on principles of equity.

    Equity in Mortgage Law

    In the field of mortgage refinancing, a concept of Equity may be the following: In housing markets, equity is the difference between the fair market value of the home and the outstanding balance on your mortgage plus any outstanding home equity loans. In vehicle leasing markets, equity is the positive difference between the trade-in or market value of your vehicle and the loan payoff amount.

    Equity in Mortgage Law

    In the field of mortgage refinancing, a concept of Equity may be the following: In housing markets, equity is the difference between the fair market value of the home and the outstanding balance on your mortgage plus any outstanding home equity loans. In vehicle leasing markets, equity is the positive difference between the trade-in or market value of your vehicle and the loan payoff amount.

    Equity: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

    Federal Primary Materials

    The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Equity. This part provides references, in relation to Equity, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

    Federal primary materials about Equity by content types:

    Laws and Regulations

    US Constitution
    Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

    Federal Case Law and Court Materials

    U.S. Courts of Appeals
    United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

    Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

    Presidential Materials

    Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

    Executive Materials

    Federal Legislative History Materials

    Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Equity and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Equity or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

    State Administrative Materials and Resources

    State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Equity and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Equity. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Equity should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

    State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

    State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Equity when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

    Tools and Forms

    Law in Other Regions

    *This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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