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The history of Equity.

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Equity. In 1066 when William the conqueror came to England the law was very different from today. Itinerant judges who would travel around the country settling any disputes administrated it. They started out using local laws and applying these to cases before them. However, the Normans were keen to develop a law which they could apply to the whole country, a law which would be common to every one. So they gathered what was considered to be the best of different local laws and developed a common law. Soon though many problems were found with common law. It soon became too ridged. Two of the main problems with common law were, that it didn't offer sufficient remedies and, a civil action could only be taken by use of a "writ." A writ was used to set out the cause of the action and the grounds for the claim. The writ became a problem because it had to be made to fit and existing writ. To start with a new writ was created when a suitable previous case could not be found however, it was soon stopped and no new writs could be issued. This meant that some cases were unable to be pursued, as an existing writ that suited the case could not be found. ...read more.


One of these occasions was the earl of oxfords case in 1615. it was a very important cases because it decided that whenever equity and common law were in conflict equity will prevail, in this case the lease to convent garden had been bought by merton college, then the college sold the lease to the earl of oxford. With the use of an elizabethian statute the college reclaimed the land as the statute forbade the land to be sold. The college claimed the sale was void. According to common law the earl would have to give up the land as the statute said it was forbidden for it to be sold, however according to equity the college had acted unfairly and the earl would be allowed to keep the land. These to views totally contradicted one another so I was down to the king to decide what action should be taken. The king then ruled that in cases where common law and equity are in conflict equity will prevail. Because of the kings ruling the two courts were never in conflict but they still ran as two separate courts. However, in 1873-1875 there were judicature acts, which now meant that the two courts were finally combined. ...read more.


However, these remedies may be refused if the claimant breaks one of the maxims of equity. The maxims are rules about who is entitled to equity as, just like common law equity bases decision on previous cases. The more common maxims are: 1. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands 2. Delay defeats equity 3. He who seeks equity must do equity For example, a company threatens to fire its employees if the don't come off strike in ten day. Ten days later and they don't come off strike and the company fires them. Because of the he who seeks equity must do equity maxim the employees would not receive an equitable remedy, as they did not treat the company fairly. Equity is definitely a vital part of English law. It plays an important role in the courts today. Although common law is vital as it offers a great stability and certain predictability to the law equity must also be used. Equity offers a fair decision in the cases where common law doesn't. Also if following common law judges may have to follow decisions they felt were wrong, this is not so with equity. Equity today has become a more fixed system then it was when it started so that it is more constant now. Which means it has the chance to offer people a fair remedy and decision but is not completely unreliable. ...read more.

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