Key Difference: Common Laws are laws that have come about of been enacted based on court rulings. These laws are developed based on rulings that have been given in older court cases. Common laws are also known as case law or precedent. Equity is a branch of law that was developed as a supplement to the strict statutory laws that may provide too harsh punishments. In layman’s terms, equity is a part of law that decides punishment on the basis of justice and fairness after looking at all aspects of the punishment, including the motive of the accused.
There are many different kinds of law systems that are present in today’s world that vary depending on the cases, region, country, etc. Common law and equity are two different types of law systems that are often confusing to many people that are not so knowledgeable about law. Law is a very confusing field, with many variations, ifs/buts, etc. The rules often change depending on the case and the surrounding situation. Common law system is basically a system of laws that is made up of rulings made in previous cases, while equity is a system that provides rulings after considering every aspect of the case.
Common Laws are laws that have come about of been enacted based on court rulings. These laws are developed based on rulings that have been given in older court cases. Common laws are also known as case law or precedent. These rules can be written as well as unwritten. In a common law justice system, the laws of a country depend on the rulings or decisions of courts or other tribunals, where it is believed justice prevailed.
The general principal of this system is that similar cases with similar facts and issues should not be treated differently. If there is a dispute between laws, the authority or precedent looks to past cases and must provide the same reasoning and decision that was provided in the first case. The laws can also be altered and evolved based on the circumstances. The judges also have the authority to create new laws or alter and interpret older laws. Once the law has been altered or changed during the ongoing case, the law will then be enforceable on all other cases henceforth with similar evidence and situations. Many countries live in common law systems or mixed systems.
Equity is a branch of law that was developed as a supplement to the strict statutory laws that may provide too harsh punishments. In layman’s terms, equity is a part of law that decides punishment on the basis of justice and fairness after looking at all aspects of the punishment, including the motive of the accused. This system is enacted whenever there is a disagreement to the application of common law. For example: If stealing is a crime and is punishable by law, then anyone who steals is a criminal. Now, if a person steals, they would automatically be punished. However, in equity law, the judge would also take into consideration why the person stole, what was the circumstance under which they accused felt the need to steal, etc.
Equity came around approximately 200-300 years after the development of the common law system in England. The courts of law during that time were filled with the enforcers of the king’s law and were trained to administer punishments that were set in stone. However, any person that was not satisfied with the outcome of the law courts in England, could appeal to the King for a lesser punishment. When the number of appeal cases grew, the King forwarded this duty to his High Chancellors. The High Chancellors were church clergymen and would usually take into consideration the surrounding factors before making a decision. This court became known as the ‘Court of Chancery.’ Following 17th century, the court of Chancery started appointing proper lawyers instead of clergymen or nobles.
In modern times, both the courts have seemed to merge in many countries to create a much fairer law system. However, in some countries, these courts are still separate. The major differences between common law and equity exist in the type of solutions that are offered by both. The court of law usually offers monetary solutions, while the court of equity can offer the person to do something or not do something. For example, let’s take a person who stole a car. In the court of law, the victim will more commonly receive the monetary value of the car, while in the court of equity the judge can tell the thief to return the property itself. In common law systems the outcome is often same or similar to the outcome provided in previous cases, while in equity the outcome can change depending on the circumstances of the situation. Another major distinction between the two is the type of courts and the judges available. In the court of law, a jury will be present to determine the outcome of the case, while in equity court; there is only a judge present that will decide the outcome.
Image Courtesy: neohouston.com, samhsa.gov