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n. a legal doctrine which is a defense to a complaint, which states that a party who is asking for a judgment cannot have the help of the court if he/she has done anything unethical in relation to the subject of the lawsuit. Thus, if a defendant can show the plaintiff had "unclean hands," the plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed or the plaintiff will be denied judgment. Unclean hands is a common "affirmative defense" pleaded by defendants, which must be proved by the defendant. Example: Hank Hardnose sues Grace Goodenough for breach of contract for failure to pay the full amount for construction of an addition to her house which she admits. The court denies any relief to Hardnose when Goodenough proves that Hardnose had shown her faked estimates from subcontractors to justify his original bid to Goodenough. (See: affirmative defense)