Maxims of Equity

Eugene Volokh has ‘discovered’ some lost maxims of equity:

bq. Equity abhors a nudnik.
Equity delights in a good practical joke.
He who seeks equity must do so with full pockets.
Equity is not for the squeamish.
Equity, schmequity.
Equity can be grumpy before its first cup of coffee.
Equity is crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.
Equity is a mean drunk.
Equity, like all of us, prefers the rich and good-looking.

There must be more of these. They sound a bit American. I think ‘like all of us’ is stylistically weak. Again, ‘He who seeks equity must do so with full pockets’ is funny, but it has no depth.Here are some real maxims of equity:

Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy.

Equitable remedies are discretionary.

Equity regards the balance of convenience.

Equity, like nature, does nothing in vain.

He who seeks equity must do equity

He who comes into equity must come with clean hands.

Delay defeats equity.

Equity is equality.

Equity looks to the intent rather than to the form.

Equity looks on that as done which ought to be done.

Equity imputes an intention to fulfil an obligation.

Equity acts on the conscience.

I don’t know the third and fourth, but I think equity is taught a bit differently in the USA than in England.

8 thoughts on “Maxims of Equity

  1. Coincidentally, I received from London this morning a 2003 Directory for the Chancery (Equity & Trusts) Bar Association.

    To fill in on real maxims 3 and 4 you say you didn’t know, the balance of convenience ties up with the complicated American Cyanamid Co. v. Ethicon Ltd (1975) principles for granting an interim injunction, indeed an equitable and therefore discretionary remedy – and known as the Am. Cyanamid Guidelines. The narrow bal. of convenience is just one of them. There are many cases on this. Here’s one from the case itself at p. 409B: ‘the extent to which the disadvantages to each party would be incapable of being compensated in damages in the event of succeeding at trial is always a significant factor in assessing where the bal. of convenience lies’. How the other tests fit in really have to be shown on a flowchart.

    Equity.. does nothing in vain. I recall AG v. the publishers of Peter Wright’s The Spycatcher Book that had already been published in Australia/New Zealand. ‘The cat was already out of the bag’, so the Eng. Law Lords decided it would have been pointless and absurd granting an injunction preventing publication in the UK.
    Tying up with nothing in vain is also the maxim that Equity will not grant a remedy requiring ‘constant supervision’ i.e. there are a couple of recent cases where the Court of Chancery have refused residents of a block of flats leave (‘permission’) to force the managing agents to appoint caretakers on duty 24 hours a day.

    Lastly, correcting my poor metric maths on the Notary book, I think 1kg equals about 2 lbs and not 1/2 lb.

  2. Thanks for the information. I must give some thought to what has happened to equity in the USA when I next have leisure to do so. They do have equity courts.

  3. .. unlike the Scots who don’t have separate Courts of Equity, but do recognise the system and grant equitable relief and ‘schmequitable’ remedies in the ordinary courts of law.

  4. I do remember a Scottish lawyer in the DBJV who does a wonderful rant against equity, and also against conveyancing. Unfortunately I forget the details.

  5. I – mindful of unpopular solicitor Michael Joseph’s book the Conveyancing Fraud of almost 30 years ago – can understand the rant against conveyancing (rip-offs?).

    I’m not so kindly disposed to ‘anti-equitarians’. My first law lecturer was at undergraduate level and an Equity Barrister/ Chancery Practitioner who changed the course of my and many of my contemporaries’ careers.

  6. Michael Joseph’s book was aimed at one principal evil – the expense of conveyancing contrasted with the effort put in. It was also a blast of fresh air into a profession which was still, well, a bit stuffy. Conveyancing services can now be bought very cheaply – perhaps £300 whatever the value of the property. Perhaps unsurprisingly, negligence claims against conveyancers rocketed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Undoubtedly there are bad or lazy conveyancers, but in general you get what you pay for

  7. Michael Joseph spoke the truth in BOTH his books (The Conveyancing Fraud and How Lawyers Can Serious Damage…”)

    Conveyancing by ‘solicitors’ is a complete Rip-Off.

    Anybody with half a brain, an ability to read and a few spare hours can do the job without being subjected to patronising bollocks from conveyancing clerks masquerading as lawyers!

  8. I found Michael Joseph very convenient for students too.

    Half a brain – there’s the rub – I do think you need over 49% to do conveyancing yourself.

    Am not sure that ‘you get what you pay for’, as SC says: after all, as you say, solicitors can get their trainees to do it.

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