Chancery Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Chancery, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Chancery?

(n) Chancery is the court which derives authority from the King and function according to the equity or fairness of the case or dispute involved rather than following letter of the law. Later the basis of equity is codified and recorded to marginalize the difference between chanceries and law courts.

History and Meaning of Chancery

Chancery is a legal term that refers to the court system that is based on principles of equity and fairness instead of strict adherence to the letter of the law. It takes its name from the Latin word "cancelli," which referred to the protective latticework in ancient Roman courts that separated the judges and magistrates from the public.

In medieval England, the Chancery was the court that was responsible for dispensing justice in cases where the strict application of common law would result in an unjust outcome. As the power of the monarchy increased over time, the Chancery became an important instrument for royal authority, and its decisions came to be regarded as the law of equity.

In the 19th century, the Chancery reforms codified the principles of equity that had previously been decided on a case-by-case basis. Today, many of these principles are enshrined in English common law and are widely recognized in other common law jurisdictions, such as the United States.

Examples of Chancery

  1. In a dispute between two property owners, the Chancery court may weigh factors such as the parties' intentions, their previous dealings with each other, and whether any fraud or misrepresentation has occurred in order to determine a fair distribution of the property.

  2. A petition may be filed in Chancery court to obtain an injunction (an order preventing an action from taking place) or a writ of mandamus (an order forcing someone to take a specific action).

  3. If a corporation is found to have engaged in fraudulent or illegal behavior, the Chancery court may order the corporation to make restitution to those harmed by its actions.

Legal Terms Similar to Chancery

  1. Equity: the principles of fairness and justice that guide the Chancery court's decision-making process.

  2. Injunction: a court order that prohibits a party from taking a particular action.

  3. Writ of mandamus: a court order that compels someone to perform a particular act.

  4. Trustee: a person or entity appointed by a court to manage property or assets on behalf of another person or group.

  5. Common law: the body of law derived from judicial decisions and customs, as opposed to statutes or written codes.