Equity law is a system of rules that supplement strict legal laws and grant courts discretionary powers. It has its roots in old English common law and supersedes both common law and statute law when both cannot provide an accurate verdict.
Equity was first created in England when the rigid procedures of England’s legal courts caused much frustration and distress to plaintiffs. Disgruntled litigants petitioned King Henry VIII who then created the Court of Chancery to hear these cases.
This new court was presided over by a Chancellor who wasn’t bound by the strict rules of common law, allowing him to administer justice more flexibly than what common law courts could. This led to the development of remedies not available under traditional remedies like injunctions and decrees of specific performance and rescission.
These new remedies marked a landmark development in the law of justice, and their acceptance by the common law was essential. Furthermore, courts of equity also acknowledged trust as an essential concept and created remedies to aid with building new relationships.
Furthermore, equity laws often have different standards than the common law. For instance, if someone holds a trusteeship they must abide by the terms of that trust.
Equity laws also have distinct penalties for failure to abide by their terms. If someone is found guilty of breaching a trust, they can be sued in an equity court and potentially convicted or sentenced to imprisonment.
The courts of equity, also referred to as Courts of Chancery, are usually responsible for handling matters such as corporate law, trusts, wills, probate, marriages and divorces. Typically a judge sits in these courtrooms who makes decisions which could include financial restitution or other types of damages.
Although there remain some distinctions between equity law and common law, they have become more closely intertwined recently. These principles are summarized by the maxim that equity must follow the law and that common law will intervene only when necessary.
This has allowed for the creation of new remedies such as decrees of specific performance or injunctions that require defendants to fulfill their part of a bargain. It also contributes to other remedies like rescission and rectification.
The common law is a system of legal principles that is practiced in many jurisdictions worldwide. It consists of strict rules based on sound principles and reasoning.
Laws of equity are a set of legal principles used in many jurisdictions that follow the English common law tradition. Their purpose is to uphold and implement the law generally while leaving room for discretion and applying natural justice principles when appropriate.