Virtually everyone wrongly supposes that when we go to court, it is a court of law. While that may still be true in some criminal cases and in some civil or penal cases, it’s not always so. Instead, although virtually no one has heard of courts of equity, that’s the kind of court that hears virtually all of our cases today.
Most legal disputes involve a contract violation therefore, our access to one court or the other depends on the kind of title we hold (if any) to whatever property is at issue in the court case. Those with legal title can access a court of law. Those with equitable title can only access a court of equity.
A legal title confers the full and complete rights of the property owner, an equitable title only provides for the enjoyment and use of the property.
Modern money plays a crucial role in determining what kind of title we have to property and thus whether our cases concerning that property are heard at law or in equity. The distinction is largely unrecognized but extraordinarily important.
And how do you own something? By paying for it with lawful money (gold & silver). It is legally impossible to OWN anything with modern debt-based currency like Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs). You can not “pay” a purchase debt with another debt. So given that our FRNs and associated forms of funny “money” are all loaned into existence, they are all debt based (promises to pay – IOUs) and can not truly “pay” or buy anything. As a result, it appears that we can not really own (buy legal title) to any property purchased with FRNs. You can only buy a perfect title to any “thing” with gold or silver.
Sound crazy? It is.
Courts of law
According to Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (1856 A.D.) all rights flow from title. That is, your right to drive your car rather than my car flows from your title to your car. Your right to live in your home rather than live in mine flows from your title to your home.
But if you have no title, you might still have a vague interest in a particular car, home or property but you’d have no right to that car, home or property.
Courts of law have but one purpose:
To determine legal rights. Nothing else.
But legal rights only flow from legal title. Thus, to invoke a court of law, at least one of the parties must have legal title to whatever property is in question. If neither party has legal title, then neither party can claim legal rights. If there is no valid claim of legal right, then neither party has standing to invoke a court of law (whose only job is to determine legal rights). See foreclosure.
In a court of law, everyone including the judge is bound by the law. There, obedience to the law is not optional or discretionary. If the law says you must do something, the judge and litigants in a court of law are bound to do as the law prescribes. No wiggle room.
As a result, determinations by a court of law can sometimes be extremely harsh. For example, if a cruel person, corporation, or bank holds legal title to particular property, they could use that title to drive an impoverished mother and her children from that property. Judicial decisions in courts of law could be merciless against anyone lacking legal title and thus legal right to the property in question. Once one party proves in court that he has legal title, his right to control a particular property however he likes is virtually unlimited. No matter what sort of villain he might be, if he had legal title, everyone (including the judge) was bound by law to respect his exclusive right to control that property.
Courts of equity
In part because of the occasional harsh decisions in courts of law, but more so because most people lacked legal title to property, courts of equity were created. These courts were designed to settle disputes between individuals squabbling over property for which neither litigant held legal title and thus neither litigant had any legal right.
For example, suppose you and your neighbor rented homes, side-by-side. Suppose you two were squabbling over who had right to harvest the oranges on a tree growing at the boundary line between your property and his. Since neither of you renters had legal title or legal right to either piece of land (that title is held by your landlords), neither neighbor has any legal right to the oranges. Therefore your case can not be heard in a court of law.
However, in the interest of reducing social discord, the very same judge in the very same room who couldn’t hear your case at law will instead now hear your case in equity. Instead of invoking a court of law, you will have unwittingly asked the judge to hear the case in equity and thereby invoked a court of equity.
In a court of equity, the judge is not bound by any law but instead, decides the case strictly according to his own conscience. In the case of the disputed oranges, the judge will probably decide that regardless of the location of the orange tree’s trunk, each litigant will be entitled to harvest whatever oranges are growing on his side of the property line.
Sounds fair, right? And that’s the stated object of equity: to achieve fairness, justice between litigants who have an equitable interest in a particular property, but no legal title or legal right. But note that while the kindly old judge may reach a fair decision in the court of equity, he’s not obligated to do so. If the judge in equity doesn’t like the color or your skin, your gender, or your politics, he can in his discretion rule against you. If the judge has been having sex with your neighbor, he can rule against you. If the judge wants sex with you, but you refuse, he can rule against you. If the judge wants sex with you and you comply, he can still rule against you.
So long as he is bound only by his own conscience (not by law) and no one knows what his conscience says but him, a judge in equity is empowered to rule virtually any way he wants.
The litigants, on the other hand (lacking legal title and legal rights) are completely helpless, entirely dependent on the judge’s alleged conscience and judge’s alleged conscience and are essentially reduced to the status of beggars. (Please, please, Mr. Judge, give me some oranges!)
Although courts of equity were ostensibly created to foster justice among those impoverished persons who had no legal title or legal rights to a particular property, those courts were and remain an open invitation to judicial tyranny. Anyone who’s been around the judicial system for long has heard of horror stories in which judges reached decisions that were grossly unfair, unjust, biased or seemingly insane.
These decisions seem inexplicable to anyone who presumes the cases were heard in courts of law. However, if the case was heard in equity (and most are), the bizarre decisions were entirely legal since, in equity, the law is irrelevant.
In courts of equity, you can present constitutional law, case law, statutes, regulations and so on. The corrupt lawyers do it all the time. And the kindly judge will politely listen and pretend that all your research makes a difference. He may even rule in accord with the irrelevant law. But in the final decision, he’s not bound by any of that law. His only criteria for deciding the case will be his own alleged conscience. If he wants to rule in accord with the law, he can. If he wants to ignore the law, he can do that, too. His power to decide any way he wants is virtually absolute in courts of equity and that’s the kind of court that hears virtually all of our cases today.
And you can bet that judicial corruption has closely followed that absolute judicial power.