Maxims Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Maxims?

(n) Maxims are the clichés, formula, or line of believes used as a thumb rule by the judges and attorneys to reach a conclusion based on the existing circumstances or evidences. Eg of Maxims are “He who takes the benefit must bear the burden.” “Between rights otherwise equal, the earliest is preferred.” “No man is responsible for that which no man can control.” “The law never requires impossibilities.”

History and Meaning of Maxims

Maxims have been a part of the legal system for centuries, and they continue to play an important role in shaping legal decisions today. These "legal maxims" are often used by judges and attorneys as guiding principles or general rules of law. They are typically derived from common law or are based on widely held beliefs or principles.

Maxims serve as a tool to help judges and attorneys make sense of legal cases, to understand how to approach the application of the law, and to make judgments based on established legal principles. While maxims are generally accepted as useful legal tools, they are not always binding, meaning that they cannot be relied upon in all cases.

Examples of Maxims

  • "He who comes to court must come with clean hands." This maxim means that if someone is asking the court to help them, they must have acted honestly and in good faith themselves.
  • "One who seeks equity must do equity." This maxim means that if somebody wants the court to help them, they must be willing to treat others fairly as well.
  • "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." This means that even if someone does not know that their actions are illegal, they can still be held responsible for them.
  • "Fraud vitiates everything." This maxim means that if fraud is found at the heart of any transaction, the transaction is considered to be void.

Legal Terms Similar to Maxims

  • Precedent: A legal precedent is a decision or ruling in a previous case that may be used as a guide for future cases.
  • Doctrine: A legal doctrine is a general rule, principle, or theory that is used to guide decisions in legal cases.
  • Statute: A statute is a law that has been enacted by a legislative body, like Congress or a state legislature. Statutes can also guide legal decisions.
  • Jurisprudence: The study of law and legal principles, including legal maxims, is known as jurisprudence.