equity: an overview
In law, the term equity refers to a particular set of remedies and associated procedures. These equitable doctrines and procedures are distinguished from "legal" ones. Equitable relief is generally available only when a legal remedy is insufficient or inadequate in some way. This could be when a claim involves a particular piece of real estate, or if specific performance is the relief requested by the plaintiff.
The distinction arose in England where there were separate courts of law and of equity. Following this pattern in America some states created "chancery courts" dealing with equitable relief only. In other states, the courts of common law were empowered to exercise equity jurisdiction. Separate courts of chancery have largely been abolished and the same court that may fashion a legal remedy has the power to prescribe an equitable one.
Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
1) The net value of real estate, determined by subtracting the amount of unpaid debts secured by the property from its market value. 2) A set of legal principles that operates in addition to statutes and common law and is intended to give judges flexibility to achieve a just result. If traditional legal remedies (which usually involve compensation with money) wouldn't be fair in a particular case, a judge can use an equitable remedie. A court might issue an order (injunction) directing someone to do something or stop doing something. For example, if someone has built a garage that extends over the neighbor's property, a court might order the garage owner to tear it down. By contrast, the legal remedy would be for the owner to compensate the neighbor for the loss in property value. The rules of equity arose in England when the strict limitations of common law would not solve all problems, so the crown set up courts of chancery (equity) to provide remedies through the royal power. Most eastern states had courts of equity or chancery separate from courts of law, but now most states combine law and equity.
Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.
August 19, 2010, 5:15 pm