CHALONER v. SHERMAN(1917)
[242 U.S. 455, 456] Messrs. Edward F. Colladay, Sidney J. Dudley, and Mr. John Armstrong Chaloner, in propria persona, for plaintiff in error.
Mr. Joseph H. Choate, Jr., for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice Brandeis delivered the opinion of the court:
This is an action in which the plaintiff seeks damages for withholding his securities and moneys. The defendant sets up as justification that he received and held the property by virtue of two orders of the supreme court of New York, appointing him committee of the person and estate of the plaintiff as one 'incompetent to manage himself and his affairs.' The validity and alleged effect of these orders were denied by plaintiff. The action was brought in 1904 in the circuit court of the United States for the southern district of New York; was transferred to the district court January, 1912, by virtue of Judicial Code, 290 [36 Stat. at L. 1167, chap. 231, Comp. Stat. 1913, 1267], and was tried before a jury in that year. A verdict was directed for the defendant at the close of the plaintiff's case; and the judgment entered thereon was affirmed by the circuit court of appels. The case comes here upon writ of error.
The complaint alleges that the plaintiff is a citizen and resident of Virginia and the defendant a citizen and resident of New York; but Federal jurisdiction was not rested solely on diversity of citizenship. The complaint alleged also that the orders of the supreme court of New [242 U.S. 455, 457] York upon which defendant relies are void as having been entered without due process of law, in violation of the Federal Constitution. The contention was insisted upon in both the lower courts. This court has, therefore, jurisdiction to review the whole case. Howard v. United States, 184 U.S. 676, 681 , 46 S. L. ed. 754, 757, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 543.
The orders under which defendant justifies were that of June 23, 1899, adjudging plaintiff incompetent, appointing a committee of his person and estate, and naming one Butler as such; and that of November 19, 1901, appointing defendant as his successor. These orders were made under statutes of New York, the material portions of which are set forth in the margin. 1 The proceedings were [242 U.S. 455, 458] held in New York city, where much of plaintiff's property was located. For over two years prior to the entry of the earlier order plaintiff had been an inmate of Bloomingdele, [242 U.S. 455, 459] a private hospital near that city. At each stage in the proceeding leading up to the order of June 23, he was personally served there with notice and was given an opportunity to be heard. Thus he had notice of the motion, on May 19, to appoint the commission de lunatico inquirendo; of the inquisition on June 12; and of the mo-
___ of a county, specified therein, to procure a jury; and that they inquire, by the jury, into the matters set forth in the petition; and also into the value of the real and personal property of the person alleged to be incompetent, and the amount of his income. It may contain such other directions, with respect to the subjects of inquiry, or the manner of executing the commission, as the court directs to be inserted therein.
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As the plaintiff had notice and opportunity to be hered at each stage of these proceedings, the essential elements of dus process of law were fully met, and the court had jurisdiction to enter that order. It is not open to collateral attack, although plaintiff was then under commitment at Bloomingdale. See Simon v. Craft, 182 U.S. 427 , 45 L. ed. 1165, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 836. The order of November 19, 1901, accepting Butler's resignation as committee and appointing defendant in his place, was made by the court without notice either to the plaintiff or to the other parties to the original proceedings. But this was a mere substitution of one offcer of the court for another. No substantial right of the plaintiff was affected. Due process does not require notice and opportunity to be heard in such a proceeding; and the irregularity, if any, was not such as to prevent the court from exercising jurisdiction to determine the matter.
The validity of the orders was assailed and their effect contested also on other grounds. It was contended that plaintiff had been corruptly lured from his home in Virginia to New York in March, 1897, and then illegally committed to Bloomingdale, and that he could not otherwise have been served in New York at all in the 1899 proceedings; that in 1899 plaintiff was a resident of Virginia; that the adjudication of incompetency in 1899 was made on perjured evidence; and that the plaintiff was then of sound mind and competent to manage his affairs. It was also contended that about November 6, 1901, the plaintiff, being a citizen and resident of Albemarle county, Virginia, was adjudged by its county court to be of sound mind and capable of managing his person and estate; that he was such at the time of the commencement of this action and has been since. Much evidence was offered to support these contentions; but the facts, if established, could not overcome the defense presented by the orders [242 U.S. 455, 462] of the supreme court of New York. That court had jurisdiction because the plaintiff and his property were in New York; and the essentials of due process of law were met. The orders, consequently, are not void; and they are not subject to this collateral attack. If it be true that the orders ought to be set aside, either because they were, as alleged, entered corruptly, irregularly, or inadvertently (see United States v. Throckmorton, 98 U.S. 61 , 25 L. ed. 93; Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113, 207 , 40 S. L. ed. 95, 123, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 139), or because, owing to a change in plaintiff's condition, a committee is no longer required, the remedy must be sought by a direct proceeding to that end (Re Curtiss, 137 App. Div. 584, 122 N. Y. Supp. 468, 199 N. Y. 36, 92 N. E. 396). No evidence was introduced to prove that even an attempt was made to vacate or modify the orders. In this action of trover, which seeks merely damages for alleged wrongful withholding of plaintiff's property, the existing orders constitute a complete defrnse. The evidence offered was properly excluded, and there was no error in directing a verdict for the defendant.
[ Footnote 1 ] Code Civ. Proc. '2320. Jurisdiction; concurrent jurisdiction.
term, of the questions of fact, arising upon the competency of the person, with respect to whom the petition prays for the appointment of a committee, the order must state, distinctly and plainly, the questions of fact to be tried; which may be settled as where an order for a similar trial is made in an action. The court may, in that or in a subsequent order, direct that notice of the trial be given to such persons, and in such a manner as is deemed proper. The trial must be reviewed in the same manner, with like effect, and, except as otherwise directed in the order, the proceedings thereupon are, in all respects, the same as where questions of fact are tried, pursuant to an order for that purpose. The court may make inquiry by means of a reference or otherwise, as it thinks proper, with respect to any matter, not involved in the questions tried by the jury, the determination of which is necessary in the course of the proceedings. The expenses of the trial, and of such an inquiry, must be paid by the petitioner.
Laws 1895, chap. 946.