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“Statutory law” and how it’s different from “equity” and “common law”

Defined

Statutory law is that body of laws created by legislatures. (Ontario has all statutes, constantly updated, available at its e-laws site.) Such law includes regulations made under the statutes in question if those regulations are properly made pursuant to a valid grant of authority made by the legislature in the statute in question. (This, naturally, does not include that most cherished of tricks of the bureaucracy, “policy”, which often represents a de facto law in that persons both individual and corporate must abide by them or else be stymied, but that is for another day.)

Common law v. statute law v. equity … and different courts?

Duhaime’s legal dictionary (an excellent source of in-depth definitions and explanations) has this to say about the differences:

Equity law developed after the common law to offset the rigid interpretations medieval English judges were giving the common law.

For hundreds of years, there were separate courts in England and its dependents: one for common law and one for equity (aka Chancery) and the decisions of the latter, where they conflicted, prevailed.

It is a matter of legal debate whether or not common law and equity are now “fused.” It is certainly common to speak of the “common law” to refer to the entire body of English law, including common law and equity.

While it might be a matter of debate whether or not common law and equity are fused it is important to note that the courts are: Ontario does not separate its courts of common law and equity. The Superior Court of Justice, the Divisional Court, the Court of Appeal and Canada’s Supreme Court are all courts which can and do apply statutory law and common law and equity.

 

Links to the three posts on this topic:  Common LawEquityStatutory Law.

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