I'm looking for a bit of case law - as an inspiration more than as valid precedent - for the following scenario:

  1. A person has some prospective rights w.r.t. some physical objects, or future rights w.r.t. the distribution of property or profits.
  2. That person engages in some legal procedure in a fraudulant (and possibly criminal) way, to obtain recognition of expanded rights (e.g. can use objects more extensively, entitled to larger part of future profits or ownership etc.)
  3. The person is found by a court to have engaged in said wrongful acts or behavior.
  4. The court not only strips the person of the excess or additional rights they had tried to secure, but prevents or limits that person from realizing even the rights they had initially had grounds to realize.

I realize this is a bit vague, but I wanted to make it general enough to make it easier to find such an example.

I am most interested in such scenarios in Common Law systems, despite the fact that the adage in the title is Latin; other systems are also relevant, altough a bit less so. Cases which are discussed in juristic literature are the most relevant, and otherwise cases heard by higher courts. I don't need a long list, but rather a prominent example in which the ruling is explicitly justified based on more fundamental legal principles and/or by appeal to justice.

Note: The case or the ruling need not actually use the phrase "fraus omnia corrumpit" anywhere, I just used it in the title because it seems relevant.

  • 1
    In common law 'fraus omnia corrumpit' is limited to fraud in the procurement of a judgement of a court or tribunal. For example, where the judge was bribed. It doesn't fit the facts you have outlined.
    – Dale M
    May 15, 2019 at 23:36
  • @DaleM: Actually, that works for me. See edit.
    – einpoklum
    May 15, 2019 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


This happens all the time, usually under the rubic of the "unclean hands" doctrine.

Historically, it was a bar only to seeking relief in courts of equity in systems descended from English law (doctrinal differences between legal and equitable legal theories have persisted even though law courts and equity courts have been merged in most common law jurisdictions). But, many courts have applied the doctrine more broadly, often on the theory that denying relief to people who abuse the system is part of the inherent authority of a court to protect its own integrity.

This doctrine provides that if you engage in improper conduct in relation to the subject matter of later litigation, that the court will deny you all relief in the litigation, even if you would otherwise have been entitled to relief.

The example from Wikipedia link above is typical of how this doctrine is applied.

The clean hands doctrine is used in U.S. patent law to deny equitable or legal relief to a patentee that has engaged in improper conduct, such as using the patent to extend monopoly power beyond the claims of the patent See, e.g., Morton Salt Co. v. G.S. Suppiger Co, 314 U.S. 488 (1942).

  • I think that's not quite what I asked about. Denying you all relief in the litigation you've initiated doesn't mean you cannot seek relief in later legal procedures, or that you've lost anything which does not require relief to realize. In the patent example - perhaps losing the patent entirely or no longer being able to apply it as a patent holder regularly would.
    – einpoklum
    May 16, 2019 at 0:07
  • @einpoklum Usually an unclean hands finding would have collateral estoppel effect in other lawsuits involving the same offender, so it can have the effect of losing the patent entirely and not being ale to apply it as a patent holder regularly would.
    – ohwilleke
    May 16, 2019 at 0:15
  • Do you have a link to either a court case or some article/book in which this estoppel effect is discussed?
    – einpoklum
    May 16, 2019 at 7:24

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