Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

Although Massachusetts became the leading jurisdiction for trust law in the United States across the nineteenth century, it never established a separate court resembling the High Court of Chancery in England. This Article asks how the judicial system of Massachusetts functioned without a separate court of chancery. The Article explains that Massachusetts managed by gradually integrating the distinctive elements of English equity into its common law courts. Beginning in the 1690s, the legislature passed laws authorizing components of equity for use in the common law courts. By 1836 the commonwealth's Supreme Judicial Court could oversee discovery, entertain cases with multiple parties, and grant injunctions and- specific performance. The court could also administer certain areas of substantive law, including trust, guardianship, and settlement of estates, that in England belonged to the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. Thus, the Supreme Judicial Court had concurrent jurisdictions in law and equity early in the nineteenth century. In this respect the court resembled the federal courts before the merger of law and equity in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1938. The long process of adding the powers and substantive law of equity to the common law courts of Massachusetts ended in 1877, when the legislature granted the Supreme Judicial Court general equity jurisdiction.

Comments

No Adequate Remedy at Law: Equity in Massachusetts 1692-1877, Phyllis Maloney Johnson, 25 August 2008