clean hands doctrine

clean hands doctrine

n. a rule of law that a person coming to court with a lawsuit or petition for a court order must be free from unfair conduct (have "clean hands" or not have done anything wrong) in regard to the subject matter of his/her claim. His/her activities not involved in the legal action can be abominable since it is considered irrelevant. As an affirmative defense (positive response) a defendant might claim the plaintiff (party suing him/her) has a "lack of clean hands" or "violates the clean hands doctrine" because the plaintiff has misled the defendant or has done something wrong regarding the matter under consideration. Example: A former partner sues on a claim that he was owed money on a consulting contract with the partnershiip when he left, but the defense states that the plaintiff (party suing) has tried to get customers from the partnership by spreading untrue stories about the remaining partner's business practices. (See: affirmative defense)

References in periodicals archive ?
'He who comes into equity must come with clean hands' - the maxim that serves as the basis of the clean hands doctrine in jurisprudence.
The states refusing to grant relief to an incarcerated obligor predicate their position on the "clean hands doctrine," i.e., "equitable relief will be denied to one who comes to the court with unclean hands." (6) In this context, the doctrine would preclude a court from relieving a party of a support obligation when any decrease in ability to pay results from one's own voluntary conduct such as the commission of most, if not all, criminal acts.