Maxims: No Interference with Court Orders

October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Courts of equity will not tolerate interference with their orders, nor with their officers in the enforcement thereof.”

This maxim was born in the earliest days of equity courts, when dissatisfied litigants sought to evade duties imposed by the chancellors through contrary orders from law courts. Those days are long past, and the Constitution and statutes determine jurisdiction in the modern era.

Here is what Judge Griffith said about it (with paragraphing added):

… it became in time the established rule that while the chancellors would of their own accord refrain absolutely from interfering with the orders of the law courts and their enforcement thereof, except upon an established equitable ground, yet when a dominant equity so required, all persons, other than the law judges themselves, would be enjoined to give obedience to the decrees in equity as to all the matter comprised therein. For instance, when a receiver is appointed in chancery and all the property has been taken in charge by the receiver, as the officer of the court it is punishable as a contempt for any person to attempt to interfere, although he may have a writ from some other court.

The rule is that if any person suffer by reason of any order in chancery, whatever it may be, he must apply to chancery for a revocation or modification of that order: a resort to some other court will not avail, save only in those cases wherein the order in chancery was absolutely void. Griffith, § 46, p. 48-49.

To put it in more succinct terms: When chancery court enters an order, you can obey it, or you can appeal it.

Today, the maxim underscores the chancery court’s considerable power to enforce its orders and to punish those who thwart them or the officers charged with carrying them out.


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