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November 26, 2022
1 min

In jurisdictions following the English common law, equity is the set of maxims that "reign over all the law" and "from which flow all civil laws" (Bacon). The Chancery, the office of equity, was the "office that issued the writs that were the foundation of the common law system". (Id.; Spence, supra, at 224). Equity is wholly "unaffected by any state laws” (Pomeroy) and is "everything, even without law" (John Bouvier). Equity is commonly said to "mitigate the rigor of common law", allowing courts to use their discretion and apply justice in accordance with natural law. In practice, modern equity is limited by substantive and procedural rules, and English and Australian legal writers tend to focus on technical aspects of equity. Twelve "vague ethical statements", known as the maxims of equity, guide the application of equity, and an additional five can be added. A historical criticism of equity while it developed was that it lacked fixed rules, with the Lord Chancellor occasionally judging in the main according to his conscience. The rules of equity later lost much of their flexibility, and from the 17th century onwards, equity was rapidly consolidated into a system of precedents much like its common-law cousin.

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