BROWN v. FLETCHER'S ESTATE(1908)
[210 U.S. 82, 83] On April 24, 1874, a bill of complaint in a suit for an accounting was filed in the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts, sitting in equity, against George N. Fletcher, of Detroit, Michigan. The latter personally appeared and defended the suit. Without going into the details of the protracted litigation in Massachusetts, or showing how the plaintiff in error became at last the plaintiff in whose favor the Massachusetts court entered judgment, it is enough to say that on april 4, 1892, an agreement was made between the parties for submitting to arbitration all the claims and demands either party might have against the other; providing that the arbitration should be under rule of court, and that it should not operate as a discontinuance of the suit. It was further stipulated that the decease of either party should not terminate the submission, but that the arbitration should continue, and his successors and legal representatives should be bound by the final award therein. On October 18, 1893, the Hon. William L. Putnam was selected as arbitrator. On May 22, 1894, he filed a preliminary award. After this, and before a final award, Fletcher died, leaving a will, which was probated in the probate court of Wayne county, Michigan. Letters testamentary were issued to his executors, citizens of Michigan, who qualified as such, and took possession of the decedent's estate in Michi- [210 U.S. 82, 84] gan. His principal estate, as well as his domicil, was in Michigan, but he owned two small tracts in Massachusetts. The probate court of Middlesex county, Massachusetts, by proceedings, regular in form, appointed Frank B. Cotton, a citizen of that state, administrator with the will annexed. The Massachusetts property was afterwards sold by that administrator for $350.
After the death of Fletcher the principal suit was revived, the administrator entered his appearance therein, and an order was made by the Massachusetts court that the executors and the children and residuary legatees of the decedent be notified to appear, and that in default thereof the arbitration proceed. They were notified by personal service of the order in the state of Michigan, but did not appear. The arbitration proceeded in their absence and a final award was made. It should also be stated that, on his death, Fletcher's counsel withdrew their appearance in the case. On April 14, 1903, the Massachusetts supreme judicial court confirmed the awards of the arbitrator, and adjudged that Albert W. Brown recover from Frank B. Cotton, administrator with the will annexed, the sum of $394,372.87 and $4,495.85 as interest and the costs of suits afterwards taxed as $5,385.40. It was further adjudged and decreed that the Michigan executors of the last will were bound by the final award of the arbitrator, and liable to pay to Albert W. Brown that aforesaid sums; that the legal representatives of George N. Fletcher were likewise bound by the award and liable for any deficiency. Thereafter the decree of the Massachusetts court was filed in the probate court of Wayne county, Michigan, as evidence of a claim against the estate. It was disallowed by that court, and, on appeal to the supreme court of Michigan, the disallowance was affirmed. 146 Mich. 401, 109 N. W. 686. Thereupon the case was brought here on error.
John Miner and Harrison Geer for plaintiff in error.
[210 U.S. 82, 87] Mr. Henry M. Campbell for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:
The Federal question presented is whether the Michigan courts gave force and effect to the 1st section of article 4 of the Federal Constitution, which provides that 'full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.' That this is a Federal question is not open to doubt. Huntington v. Attrill, 146 U.S. 657, 666 , 36 S. L. ed. 1123, 1227, 13 Sup. Ct. Rep. 224, and cases cited.
The constitutional provision does not preclude the courts of a state in which the judgment of a sister state is presented from inquiry as to the jurisdiction of the court by which the judgment was rendered. See the elaborate opinion by Mr. Justice Bradley, speaking for the court, in Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457, 21 L. ed. 897. That opinion has been followed in many cases, among which may be named Simmons v. Saul, 138 U.S. 439, 448 , 34 S. L. ed. 1054, 1059, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 369; Reynolds v. Stockton, 140 U.S. 254, 265 , 35 S. L. ed. 464, 467, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 773; Thormann v. Frame, 176 U.S. 350 , 44 L. ed. 500, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 446. Even record recitals of jurisdictional facts do not preclude oral testimony as to the existence of those facts. Knowles v. Logansport Gaslight & Coke Co. 19 Wall. [210 U.S. 82, 89] 58, 61, 22 L. ed. 70, 72; Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 730 , 24 S. L. ed. 565, 571; Cooper v. Newell, 173 U.S. 555, 566 , 43 S. L. ed. 808, 811, 19 Sup. Ct. Rep. 506.
Every state has exclusive jurisdiction over the property within its borders. Overby v. Gordon, 177 U.S. 214 , 44 L. ed. 741, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 603. We make this extract from the opinion of Mr. Justice White in that case, p. 222:
Considering first the latter proposition, we are of opinion that there is no such relation between the executor and an administrator with the will annexed, appointed in another state, as will make a decree against the latter binding upon the former, or the estate in his possession. While a judgment against a party may be conclusive, not merely against him, but also against those in privity with him, there is no privity between two administrators appointed in different states. Vaughan v. Northup, 15 Pet. 1, 10 L. ed. 639; Aspden v. Nixon, 4 How. 467, 11 L. ed. 1059; Stacy v. Thrasher, 6 How. 44, 12 L. ed. 337. In this latter case, on page 58, it was said:
See also McLean v. Meek, 18 How. 16, 15 L. ed. 277; Johnson v. Powers 139 U.S. 156 , 35 L. ed. 112, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 525, in which the question is discussed at some length by Mr. Justice Gray. This doctrine was enforced in Massachusetts (Low v. Bartlett, 8 Allen, 259), where a judgment had been recovered in Vermont against an ancillary administrator appointed in that state, whose appointment had been made at the request of the executor under the will probated in Massachusetts, and it was held that the administrator was not in privity with the executor, because the two were administering two separate and distinct estates; the court saying, p. 262:
The Massachusetts statutes proceed along this line. Secs. 10, 11, and 12, chap. 136, Mass. Rev. Laws 1902, provide for the probate of foreign wills in Massachusetts. Sec. 12 reads:
With reference to the first contention of counsel, we remark that, while the original suit against Fletcher in the Massachusetts court was revived after his death, yet the revivor was operative only against the administrator with the will annexed. Neither the executors nor the residuary legatees were made parties, for it is elementary that service of process outside of the limits of the state is not operative to bring the party served within the jurisdiction of the court ordering the process. Such also is the statutory provision in Massachusetts. Section 1, chap. 170, Mass. Rev. Laws 1902, reads:
The Massachusetts court, therefore, proceeded without any personal jurisdiction over the executors and legatees, who [210 U.S. 82, 93] were all domiciled in Michigan, did not appear, and were not validly served with process.
The argument of plaintiff in error is that, by personal appearance during his lifetime, the Massachusetts court acquired jurisdiction of the suit in equity against Fletcher; this his death prior to a decree did not abate the suit, but only temporarily suspended it until his representative should be made a party; that, if a decree had been rendered against him in his lifetime, it would have established, both against himself, and, after his death, against his estate, whatever of liability was decreed; that, while the suit was pending, the parties entered into a stipulation for an arbitration; that that arbitration did not abate, nor was it outside the suit, but, in terms, made under rule of court, and not to operate as a discontinuance of the suit. Provision was also made in the stipulation for the contingency of death, its terms being 'that the decease of any party shall not revoke said submission, but that said arbitration shall continue, and that . . . the legal representatives of said Brown and said Fletcher shall be bound by the final award therein;' so that there is not merely the equity rule that a suit in equity does not abate by the death of the defendant, and that the jurisdiction of the court is only suspended until such time as the proper representatives of the deceased are made parties defendant, but also a special agreement in the submission to arbitration that it shall be made under a rule of court, and that the death of either party shall not terminate the arbitration proceedings, but that they shall continue until the final award. It is urged that, on the death, a revivor was ordered; that the representative of the decedent's estate in Massachusetts, to wit, the administrator, was made a party defendant and appeared to the suit, and notice was given by personal service upon the executors and legatees in Michigan of the fact of the revivor, and that they were called upon to appear and defend.
But it must be borne in mind that this arbitration was made under a rule of court. Not only that, but special provision [210 U.S. 82, 94] was made for the action of the court in deciding questions of law arising upon the report of the arbitrator, so that the arbitration was not an outside and independent proceeding, but simply one had in court, for the purpose of facilitating the disposition of the case. And we may remark in passing that we do not have before us the case of a simple arbitration contract, executed independently of judicial proceedings, and express no opinion as to the rights and remedies of one party thereto in case of the death of the other. The validity of the decree must depend upon the proceedings subsequent to the death of Fletcher. On his death the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts court was not wholly destroyed, but suspended until the proper representative of Fletcher was made a party. The Massachusetts administrator was made a party and did appear, and the decree rendere unquestionably bound him; but the executors, the domiciliary representatives of the decedent's estate, did not appear, and were not brought into court. The Massachusetts administrator was not a general representative of the estate, and could not bind it by any appearance or action other than in respect to the property in his custody. If the home estate was to be reached, it had to be reached by proceedings to which the home representatives were parties. The agreement of the parties that the arbitration should continue in case of the death of either, and that the legal representatives of the party should be bound by the final award, was an agreement made in the course of judicial proceedings of the suit in the Massachusetts court. It did not operate to make the home representatives of the decedent parties to the suit on the death of Fletcher. It did not bring his general estate into court. We concur in the views expressed by the supreme court of Michigan in the close of its opinion that--
We are of opinion that the Supreme Court of Michigan did not fail to give 'full faith and credit' to the decree of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, and therefore the judgment is affirmed.