I understand equity to be a sort of royal veto or override of the natural results of the legal courts on the basis that to allow a certain candid result to prevail -not that it was reached by a process that was wrong or that the court erred at all- in a particular real world situation would simply be inequitable. So it’s basically a circumvention of legal mechanisms and precedents to appeal to the royal conscience.

And yet it has apparently somehow been reconciled with law into the same courts etc.

How do they sit with each other?

2 Answers 2


Courts applying rules of equity follow precedent and principles of stare decisis. They look to previous decisions for guidance about the equitable principles, the tests for the particular remedies, and factors that should guide the court's discretion in a given case.

For example, when the Supreme Court of Canada says the equitable remedy of specific performance should "not be granted as a matter of course absent evidence that the property is unique to the extent that its substitute would not be readily available" (Semelhago v. Paramadevan, [1996] 2 S.C.R. 415), lower courts listen.

As explained at this Q&A (What are "equity" and "equitable remedies"?):

equity is certainly part of law in the sense that it is part of the legal system, applied by courts, and can result in equitable remedies. "Equity in this sense has been a feature of many legal systems from ancient times" (Snell's Equity, §1-002).


Your understanding is wrong

An equitable remedy is just as subject to stare decisis as a remedy in law. What the High Court hath spoken, a subordinate court had better pay attention to.

The discretion that a court has in matters in equity is a discretion as to the distinction between cases, not a discretion to depart from a binding precedent where there is no discretion.

For example, if the facts of the case show that a contract says “X” then, at law, the court has no discretion - X it says so X it shall be. However, if there is an equitable argument that the contract should be set aside (e.g. unconscionably) them, subject to precedent, X doesn’t mean X.

  • What is “‘X’ ten”? Oct 25 at 18:52
  • And didn’t equity historically present a subsequent appeal of legal rulings? In other words, the legal courts delivered a judgment of X based on law, but party A felt that this was just fundamentally inequitable, so he appealed to the king through the court of Chancery, in order to gain a negation and relief from this inequitable result? In that sense, did Equity not sit above and superior to law, which it had the ability to negate the effects of? Oct 25 at 18:55
  • 1
    @Seekinganswers no, the court systems were parallel. If your claim was founded in law you went to the law courts, if you had no remedy in law, you went to the chancellery. Also, “X” means the unknown thing the contract says.
    – Dale M
    Oct 25 at 19:50

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