Adams Stirling PLC


The court of appeal in Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd. v. Superior Court (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 970, 978-79, summarized the doctrine of "Unclean Hands" as follows:
The defense of unclean hands arises from the maxim, “He who comes into Equity must come with clean hands.” The doctrine demands that a plaintiff act fairly in the matter for which he seeks a remedy. He must come into court with clean hands, and keep them clean, or he will be denied relief, regardless of the merits of his claim. The defense is available in legal as well as equitable actions. Whether the doctrine of unclean hands applies is a question of fact.
The unclean hands doctrine protects judicial integrity and promotes justice. It protects judicial integrity because allowing a plaintiff with unclean hands to recover in an action creates doubts as to the justice provided by the judicial system. Thus, precluding recovery to the unclean plaintiff protects the court’s, rather than the opposing party's, interests. The doctrine promotes justice by making a plaintiff answer for his own misconduct in the action. It prevents “a wrongdoer from enjoying the fruits of his transgression.
An example of unclean hands is where a member collected proxies to recall the board of directors. Other members collected proxies in sufficient to block the recall. Plaintiff sued to void the proxies because they were no allowed by the bylaws. The court ruled that even though the plaintiff was correct that the use of proxies was improper, he was estopped from seeking relief because he had unclean hands, i.e., he had used proxies himself. (Barcia v. Fenlon 337 A.3d 1(Pa. App. 2012).)

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