What is a court of equity?

What is a court of equity?

What is a court of equity?



A court of equity is a type of legal institution that operates alongside common law courts to provide remedies and justice in cases where the application of strict legal rules may lead to unfair outcomes. While common law courts focus on the application of legal principles and statutes, courts of equity prioritize fairness, justice, and equitable remedies. In this article, we will explore the concept of a court of equity, its history, jurisdiction, and its role in modern legal systems.

History of Courts of Equity

Courts of equity trace their origins back to medieval England when common law courts often failed to provide adequate remedies for certain types of disputes. Common law courts were bound by rigid rules and procedures, which sometimes led to unjust outcomes. Recognizing this limitation, the King of England established the Court of Chancery as a separate court to address matters of equity.

The Court of Chancery had the authority to provide remedies that were not available in common law courts, such as injunctions, specific performance, and the appointment of receivers. These remedies aimed to prevent harm, compel action, or restore parties to their rightful position. Over time, the principles and procedures developed by the Court of Chancery became known as equity, forming a distinct branch of the legal system.

Jurisdiction of Courts of Equity

Courts of equity have traditionally had jurisdiction over specific types of cases, including trusts, estates, property disputes, and matters involving fiduciary duties. They also handle cases where legal remedies are inadequate or impractical. The jurisdiction of courts of equity varies across different legal systems, but their overarching goal is to ensure fairness and justice.

One of the key principles of equity is the maxim “equity follows the law.” This means that courts of equity will not interfere with the decisions of common law courts unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Instead, they seek to supplement the common law by providing additional remedies or modifying the application of legal rules to achieve equitable outcomes.

Equitable Remedies

Courts of equity are known for their ability to provide equitable remedies that go beyond the monetary damages awarded by common law courts. Some of the common equitable remedies include:

Injunctions: An injunction is a court order that prohibits or compels a party to do a specific act. It can be used to prevent harm, enforce contractual obligations, or protect a party’s rights.

Specific Performance: Specific performance is a remedy that requires a party to fulfill their contractual obligations as agreed upon in the contract. It is typically used when monetary damages would not adequately compensate the injured party.

Rescission: Rescission allows a contract to be canceled or set aside, usually due to fraud, misrepresentation, or a mistake. It aims to restore the parties to their pre-contractual position.

Accounting: Courts of equity have the power to order an accounting of financial transactions and assets in cases involving trusts, partnerships, or other fiduciary relationships. This ensures transparency and prevents mismanagement or misappropriation of funds.

Modern Role of Courts of Equity

In many legal systems, the separation between common law and equity has diminished over time. Common law courts now have the authority to grant equitable remedies, and the principles of equity have been incorporated into statutory law. However, the concept of a court of equity still exists in some jurisdictions, particularly in countries with a common law tradition.

Modern courts of equity continue to play a vital role in resolving complex disputes where legal remedies alone may not be sufficient. They provide a forum for parties seeking equitable relief and ensure that justice is served, even in cases where strict legal rules may fall short.


In summary, a court of equity is a legal institution that operates alongside common law courts to provide equitable remedies and ensure fairness in the legal system. Originating from medieval England, courts of equity have a long history of addressing cases where strict legal rules may lead to unjust outcomes. While the jurisdiction and role of courts of equity have evolved over time, their fundamental purpose remains to deliver justice and equitable relief.


– Encyclopedia Britannica: www.britannica.com/topic/court-of-equity
– Legal Information Institute: www.law.cornell.edu/wex/equity
– Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/equity/