The Relationship Between Common Law and Equity

Common law was originally based on the customs and traditions that governed England, and the royal courts were in charge of ensuring the proper administration of these laws. Other countries such as United States, Australia and New Zealand adopted common law in their country’s legal system after gaining their independence from England. The law of equity is a set of rules created by the courts of Chancery in order to mitigate the harshness that the common law system provided to the country. There is a certain relationship between the common law and equity.

Emergence of Equity

The Courts of Chancery introduced the law of equity in order to fill in the gaps of law that common law failed to address. In addition, equity sought to avail a kind of flexibility in the law because the common law presented a rigid system where writs governed the system of judgment. Equity is fair and just rule and looked into availing fair judgment to individuals based on the rules that governed equity and the particular circumstances of the case.

Differences in Remedies

The common law availed only monetary remedies when addressing grievances brought forward by the parties of a case in order to determine which party can claim victory of a case. This limited the ability of the courts of law to address other issues that fell outside the scope of monetary compensation.

The law of equity brought about a system where the judges weighed the particulars of the case to determine whether to avail a remedy in terms of damages or provide a remedy that did not border on financial grounds, such as an injunction, thus boosting the remedies available to parties.

Development of Precedent

The judges in the common law system declared the substance of the law when they made decisions regarding the different cases of law. The judges in the Chancery Courts who administered the rules of equity brought about the system of judge-made law, which is based on precedents. The judges look into previous judgments made in order to direct the presentation of justice in another case with similar facts. The system of judge-made law developed over the years even after the merger of common law and equity to form the common law that stands today.

Merger of Common Law and Equity

The Judicature Acts led to a merger of both common law and equity in the 19th century. This conflict between common law courts and Chancery courts boosted this move because the judgments given in the two courts would at times conflict. In addition, the law of equity in itself was not a fully established system of law because it only acted as a remedy when the common law failed to address certain legal issues. The merger incorporated the principles of both common law and equity in order to avail a more wholesome system of judgment.

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About the Author

Diana Wicks is a Canadian residing in Vancouver. She began writing in 2004 while still a student at Lincoln School of Journalism, in the city of London. She has worked as Chief Editor of Business Chronicle, an online magazine based in London. Wicks holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in journalism and a Master of Business Administration from the London School of Economics.