The Original Meaning of Equity

102 Wash. U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2024)

66 Pages Posted: 21 May 2024

See all articles by Asaf Raz

Asaf Raz

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Date Written: May 21, 2024


Equity is seeing a new wave of attention in scholarship and practice. Yet, as this Article argues, our current understanding of equity is divided between two distinct meanings: on one side, the federal courts, guided by the Supreme Court, tend to discuss equity as the precise set of remedies known at a fixed point in the past (static equity). On the other, state courts—most prominently, in Delaware—administer equity to preserve the correct operation of law in unforeseeable situations (substantive equity). Only the latter interpretation complies with the historical and functional idea of equity.

This Article makes the first detailed argument for resolving the problem of static equity, and reinvigorating substantive equity in the federal judiciary and the broader legal community. To do so, this Article takes a highly innovative step, by connecting the federal discussion with an in-depth analysis of the legal scene where equity is employed most systematically (and most faithfully to its historical roots): Delaware law, including its corporate law. As this Article demonstrates, substantive equity is fully compatible with originalism and textualism; the "equity" mentioned in the Constitution and later federal texts is substantive, not static, equity. Federal law has always operated within the sphere of the common law, and this Article offers a new bridge between the two, exposing the members of each community to insights from the other, in a manner that promotes both the original understanding of the legal text, justice, and the rule of law.

Keywords: Equity, federal law, Delaware law, corporate law, business law, originalism, textualism, legal interpretation, Supreme Court, constitutional law, law and economics, legal history, legal theory, philosophy of law

JEL Classification: D23, K10, K20, K22, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Raz, Asaf, The Original Meaning of Equity (May 21, 2024). 102 Wash. U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2024), Available at SSRN:

Asaf Raz (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

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