Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary

    The system of jurisprudence which was designed to relieve from the hardships of the common law, in which equitable remedies are administered by courts of equity; good conscience; courts of equity; an equitable right, estate or interest. See 8 Misc. Rep. 484, 29 N. Y. Supp. 342.

  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    1. In its broadest and most general signification, thls term denotes the spirit and the habit of fairness, justness, and right dealing which would regulate the intercourse of men with men,—the rule of doing to all others as we desire them to do to us; or, as it is expressed by Justinian, "to live honestly, to harm nobody, to render to every man his due." Inst. 1, 1,
    3. It is therefore the synonym of natural right or justice. But in this sense its obligation is ethical rather than jural, and its discussion belongs to the sphere of morals. It is grounded In the precepts of the conscience, not in any sanction of positive law.
    2. In a more restricted sense, the word denotes equal and impartial justice as between two persons whose rights or claims are in conflict; justice, that is, as ascertained by natural reason or ethical insight, but independent of the formulated body of law. This Is not a technical meaning of the term, except in so far as courts which administer equity seek to discover It by the agencies above mentioned, or apply it beyond the strict lines of positive law. See Miller v. Kennist-on. 86 Me. 550, 30 AH. 114.
    3. In one of its technical meanings, equity is a body of jurisprudence, or field of jurisdiction, differing in its origin, theory, and methods from the common law. It is a body of rules existing by the side of the original civil law, founded on distinct principles, and claiming incidentally to supersede the civil law in virtue of a superior sanctity inherent in those principles. Maine, Anc. Law, 27. "As old rules become too narrow, or are felt to be out of harmony with advancing civilization, a machinery is needed for their gradual enlargement and adaptation to new views of society. One mode of accomplishing this object on a large scale, without appearing to disregard existing law, la the introduction, by the prerogative of some high functionary, of a more perfect body of rules, discoverable in his judicial conscience, which is to stand side by side with the law of the land, overriding it in case of conflict, as on some title of inherent superiority, but not purporting to repeal it. Such a body of rules has been calied 'Equity.' " Holl. Jur. 59. "Equity," in its technical sense, contradistinguished from natural and universal equity or justice, may well be described as a "portion of justice" or natural equity, not embodied in legislative enactments, or in the rules of common law, yet modified by a due regard thereto and to the complex relations and conveniences of an artificial state of society, and administered in regard to cases where the particular rights, in respect of which relief is sought come within some general class of rights enforced at law, or may be enforced without detriment or inconvenience to the community; but where, as to such particular rights, the ordinary courts of law cannot, or originally did not, clearly afford relief. Rob. Eq.
    4. In a still more restricted sense, It is a system of Jurisprudence, or branch of remedial justice, administered by certain tribunals, distinct from the common-law courts, and empowered to decree "equity" in the sense last above given. Here it becomes a complex of weli-settled and well-understood rules, principles, and precedents. See Hamilton v. Avery, 20 Tex. 633; Dalton v. Vander-veer, 8 Misc. Rep. 484, 29 N. Y. Supp. 342; Parmeter v. Bourne, 8 Wash. 45, 35 Pac. 586; Ellis v. Davis, 109 U. S. 485, 3 Sup. Ct 327, 27 In Ed. 1006. "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 English 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 development." Bisp. Eq. § 11. A system of jurisprudence collateral to, and in some respecte independent of, "law," properly so called ; the object of which is to render the administration of justice more complete, by affording relief where the courts of law are incompetent to give it, or to give it with effect, or by exercising certain branches of jurisdiction independently of them. This is equity in its proper modern sense; an elaborate system of rules and process, administered in many cases by distinct tribunals, (termed "courts of chancery,") and with exclusive jurisdiction over certain subjects. It is "still distinguished by its original and animating principle that no right should be without an adequate remedy," and its doctrines are founded upon the same basis of natural justice; but its action has become systematized, deprived of any loose and arbitrary character which might once have belonged to it, and as carefully regulated by fixed rules and precedents as the law itself. Burrill. Equity, in its technical and scientific legal use, means neither natural justice nor even all that portion of nafurai justice which is susceptible of being judicially enforced. It has a precise, limited, and definite signification, and is used to denote a system of justice which was administered in a particular court,—the English high court of chancery,—which system can only be understood and explained by studying the history of that court, and how it came to exercise what is known as its extraordinary jurisdiction. Bisp. Eq. § 1. That part of the law which, having power to enforce discovery,
    (1) administers trusts, mortgages, and other fiduciary obligations;
    (2) administers and adjusts common-law rights where the courts of common law have no machinery ;
    (3) supplies a specific and preventive remedy for common-law wrongs where couris of common law only give subsequent damages. Chute. Eq.
    —Equity, courts of. Courts which administer justice according to the system of equity, and according to a peculiar course of procedure or practice. Frequently termed "courts of chancery." See 1 Bl. Comm. 92.
    —Equity jurisdiction. This term includes not only the ordinary meaning of the word "jurisdiction," the power residing in a court to hear and determine an action, but also a consideration of the cases and occasions when that power is to be exercised, in other words, the question whether the action will lie in equity. Anderson v. Carr, 65 Hun, 179, 19 N. Y. Supp. 992; People v. Mc-Kane, 78 Hun. 154, 28 N. Y. Supp. 981.
    —Equity jurisprudence. That portion of remedial justice which is exclusively administered by courts of equity, as distinguished from courts of common law. Jackson v. Nimmo, 3 Lea (Tenn.) 609.
    —Equity of a statute. By this phrase is intended the rule of statutory construction which admits within the operation of a statute a class of cases which are neither expressly named nor excluded, but which, from their analogy to the cases that are named, are clearly and justly within the spirit and general meaning of the law ; such cases are said to be "within the equity of the statute."
    —Equity term. An equity term of court is one devoted exclusively to equity business, that is, in which no criminal cases are tried nor any cases requiring the impaneling of a jury. Hesselgrave v. State, 63 Neb. 807, 89 N. W. 295,
    —Natural equity. A term sometimes employed in works on jurisprudence, possessing no very precise meaning, but used as equivalent to justice, honesty, or morality in business relations, or man's innate sense of right dealing and fair play. Inasmuch as equity, as now administered, is a complex system of rules, doctrines, and precedents, and possesses, within the range of its own fixed principles, but little more elasticity than the law, the term "nafurai equity" may be understood to denote, in a general way, that which strikes the ordinary conscience and sense of justice as being fair, right, and equitable, in advance of the question whether the technical jurisprudence of the chancery couris would so regard it.
    5. Equity also signifies an equitable right, i. e., a right ehforceable in a court of equity; hence, a bill of complaint which did not show that the plaintiff had a right entitling him to relief was said to be demurrable for want of equity; and certain rights now recognized in all the courts are still known as "equities," from having been originally recognized only in the court of chancery. Sweet.
    —Better equity. The right which, in a court of equity, a second incumbrancer has who has taken securities against subsequent dealings to his prejudice, which a prior incumbrancer neglected to take although he had an opportunity. 1 Ch. Prec. 470, note; Bouv. Law Diet. See 3 Bouv. Inst, note 2462.
    —Countervailing equity. A contrary and balancing equity; an equity or right opposed to that which is sought to be enforced or recognized, and which ought not to be sacrificed or subordinated to the latter, because it is of equal strength and justice, and equally deserving of consideration.
    —Latent or secret equity. An equitable claim or right, the knowledge of which has been confined to the parties for and against whom it exists, or which has been concealed from one or several persons interested in the subject-matter.
    —Perfect equity. An equitable title or right which lacks nothing to its completeness as a, legal title or right except the formal conveyance or other investiture which would make it cognizable at law; particularly, the equity or interest of a purchaser of real estate who has paid the purchase price in full and fulfilled all conditions resting on him, but has not yet received a deed or patent. See Shaw v. Lindsey, 60 Ala. 344 ; Smith v. Cockrell, 66 Ala. 75,
    —Equity of partners. A term used to designate the right of each of them to have the firm's property applied to the payment of the firm's debts. Colwell v. Bank, 16 R. I. 288, 17 Atl. 913.
    —Equity of redemption. The right of the mortgagor of an estate to redeem the same after it has been forfeited, at law, by a breach of the condition of the mortgage, upon paying the amount of debt, interest and costs. Navassa Guano Co. v. Richardson, 26 S. C. 401, 2 S. E. 307 ; Sellwood v. Gray, 11 Or. 534, 5 Pac. 196; Pace v. Bartles, 47 N. J. Eq. 170, 20 Atl. 352; Simons v. Bryce, 10 S. C. 373.
    —Equity to a settlement. The equitable right of a wife, when her husband sues in equity for the reduction of her equitable estate to his own possession, to have the whole or a portion of such estate settled upon herself and her children. Also a similar right now recognized by the equity courts as directly to be asserted against the husband. Also called the "wife's equity." Toindexter v. Jeffries, 15 Grat. (Va.) Rb3; Clarke v. McCreary, 12 Smedes & M. (Miss.) 354. Equity delights to do justice, and that not by halves. Tallman v. Varick, 5 Barb. (N. Y.) 277, 280; Story, Eq. PL § 72. Equity follows the law. Talb. 52. Equity adopts and follows the rules of law in all cases t5o which those rules may, in terms, be applicable. Equity, in dealing with cases of an equitable nature, adopts and follows the analogies furnished by the rules of law. A leading maxim of equity jurisprudence, which, however, is not of universal application, but liable to many exceptions. Story, Eq. Jut. § 64. Equity looks upon that as done which onght to haye been done. 1 Story, Eq. Jut. § 64p. Equity wlll treat the subject-matter, as to collateral consequences and incidents, in the same manner as lf the final acts contemplated by the parties had bcen executed exactly as they ought to have been; not as the parties might have executed them. Id. Equity suffers not a right without a remedy. 4 Bouv. Inst no. 3726.