This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol7 Equity Jurisprudence, Trusts, Equity Pleading", by Albert H. Putney. Also available from Amazon: Popular Law-Dictionary.
This maxim gives the principle upon which equity jurisprudence was originally founded. During what may be called the formulative period in the history of equity, this maxim was true, and equity judges would create new remedies to meet new conditions.4 At the present time the general scope of equity jurisdiction has been fixed, and cannot be enlarged by any act of the judges. There are at the present time, many wrongs for which there is no relief, either at law or in equity.5
2 "The language of this maxim is so broad and its proper application so narrow that its utility is doubtful and its tendency misleading. It is true only in certain special senses. Where no countervailing equity requires different treatment a court of equity in dealing with legal estates and rights will follow the rules of law in respect thereto." 16 Cyc, 137. "The Latin form of this maxim is equitas segnitur legem, and though frequently stated as a general principle, it is really quite restricted in scope. There are, however, two classes of cases in which equity may be said to follow the law: (1) in determining purely legal rights, and (2) in determining analogous equitable rights." Am. & Eng. Ency. of Law, Vol. XI, pages 174-5.
3 Castner vs. Walrod, 83 I11., 171;
Phillips vs. Sinclair, 20 Me., 269; Upham vs. Wyman, 7 Allen (Mass.), 503; Carrol vs. Green, 92 U. S., 509.
4 See subject of Legal History, Vol.
I, Sub. 2, Chapter VIII (Penalties And Forfeitures. Section 49. Penalties). 5 The attempt to explain this maxim by saying that the word "wrong" here means "legal wrong," reduces the maxim to a mere meaningless arguing in a circle. Furthermore the larger meaning of the term was the one undoubtedly meant when the maxim was originally used.
This maxim, however, is still applicable, in certain cases. For example, where a statute creates a new right which cannot be enforced at law, equity will create new remedies to enforce it.6