Maxims: To Protect Property Rights

October 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

From the earliest days of equity, property disputes were matters for chancery. The concept of property, however, is much broader than the dirt upon which we stand and live.

Judge Griffith explains:

Property and property rights only are within the domain of equitable interference, there being included however not only all those interests in real and personal property which are, or can be, the subject of individual ownership, but also those other interests of quasi-ownership which are the equitable equivalents of property in some form, such, for instance, as the right to labor and engage in a lawful business, the right to health and reputation, the right to the physical senses of sight, hearing and the like, which will make labor, business or property profitable or enjoyable; the right to free speech, free movement and thr right to all the civil privileges which make all those other rights real and preserve them unimpaired — all these are not only in a party’s own right but in behalf as well of all those of his family who are legally dependent upon him. Griffith, § 44, pp. 47-48.

He distinguishes the mentioned matters from “Questions of partisan politics, religious or fraternal controversies, crimes and the like, except when property is directly involved …” as issues that are reserved for jury courts.

The common thread running through the list of equitable matters is that to effect a remedy in each the court must take coercive measures or look past the parties’ current situation and legal forms, and put the parties in a proper relationship to one another. Money damages alone will not cure the problems arising in those matters.


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