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Equity

courts, jurisdiction, principles, remedial, law, justice, process and parties

EQUITY. A branch of remedial justice by and through which relief is afforded to suit ors in the courts of equity.

In the broad sense in which this term is some times used it signifies natural justice.

In a more limited application, it denotes equal justice between contending parties. This is its moral signification, in reference to the rights of parties having conflicting claims; but applied to courts and their jurisdiction and proceedings, it has a more restrained and limited signification.

One division of courts is into courts of law and courts of equity. And equity, in this relation and application, is a branch of remedial justice by and through which relief is afforded to suitors in the courts of equity.

The difference between the remedial justice of the courts of common law and that of the courts of equity is marked and material. That administered by the courts of law is limited by the principles of the common law (which are to a great extent posi tive and inflexible), and especially by the nature and character of the process and pleadings, and of the judgments which those courts can render ; be cause the pleadings cannot fully present all the matters in controversy, nor can the judgments be adapted to the special exigencies which may exist in particular cases. It is not uncommon, also, for cases to fail in those courts, from the fact that too few or too many persons have been joined as par ties, or because the pleadings have not been framed with sufficient technical precision.

The remedial process of the courts of equity, on the other hand, admits, and, generally, requires, that all persons having an interest shall be made parties, .and makes a large allowance for amend ments by summoning and discharging parties after the commencement of the suit. The pleadings are usually framed so as to present to the considera tion of the court the whole case, with its possible legal rights, and all its equities,—that is, all the grounds upon which the suitor is or is not entitled to relief upon the principles of equity. And its final remedial process may be so varied as to meet the requirements of these equities, in cases where the jurisdiction of the courts of equity exists, by "com manding what is right, and prohibiting what ie wrong." In other words, its final process is varied so as to enable the courts to do that equitable jus tice between the parties which the case demands, either by commanding what is to be done, or pro hibiting what is threatened to be done.

The principles upon which, and the modes and forms by and through which, justice is administered in the United States, are derived to a great ex tent from those which were in existence in England at the time of the settlement of this country ; and it is therefore important to a correct understanding of the nature and character of our own jurispru dence, not only to trace it back to its introduction here on the early settlement of the colonies, but also to trace the English jurisprudence from its earliest inception as the administration of law, founded on principles, down to that period. It is in this way that we are enabled to explain many things in our own practice which would otherwise be entirely obscure. This is particularly true of the principles which regulate the jurisdiction and prac tice of the courts of equity, and of the principles of equity as they are now applied and administered in the courts of law which at the present day have equitable jurisdiction conferred upon them by stat utes passed for that purpose. And for the purpose of a competent understanding of the course of de cisions in the courts of equity in England, it is necessary to refer to the origin of the equitable jurisdiction there, and to trace its history, inquiring upon what principles it was originally,founded, and how it has been enlarged and sustained.

The study of equity jurisprudence, therefore, com prises an inquiry into the origin and history of the courts of equity ; the distinctive principles upon which jurisdiction in equity is founded ; the nature, character, and extent of the jurisdiction itself ; its peculiar remedies ; the rules and maxims which regulate its administration ; its remedial process and proceedings and modes of defence; and its rules of evidence and practice.

"The meaning of the word 'equity,' as used In its technical sense in English jurisprudence, comes back to this: that it is simply a term descriptive of a certain field of jurisdiction exercised in the Eng lish system, by certain courts, and of which the extent and boundaries are not marked by lines founded upon principle so much as by the features of the original constitution of the English scheme of remedial law, and the accidents of its develop ment." Bisph. Eq. § ll.