BROWN V. FLETCHER'S ESTATE, 210 U. S. 82 (1908)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. Fletcher's Estate, 210 U.S. 82 (1908)

Brown v. Fletcher's Estate

No. 220

Argued April 30, 1908

Decided May 18, 1908

210 U.S. 82


The full faith and credit clause of the federal Constitution does not preclude the court of a state in which the judgment of a sister state is presented from inquiry as to jurisdiction of the court by which the judgment is rendered, nor is this inquiry precluded by a recital in the record of jurisdictional facts.

Every state has exclusive jurisdiction over property within its borders, and where testator has property in more than one state, each state has jurisdiction over the property within its limits, and can, in its own courts, provide for the disposition thereof in conformity with its laws.

There is no privity between the executor and an administrator with the will annexed appointed in another state which makes a decree in a court of such state against the latter binding under the full faith and credit clause of the federal Constitution upon the former in the courts of the state in which such executor is appointed.

Page 210 U. S. 83

Where a party dies pending a suit which is subsequently revived against an administrator with the will annexed appointed in the state in the court of which the suit is pending, the judgment is binding only upon the parties against which it is revived and who are within the jurisdiction of the court, and the courts of another state are not bound under the full faith and credit clause of the federal Constitution to give effect to such judgment against the executors of such deceased party, and this applies to a judgment entered on an arbitration had in pursuance of a stipulation that it should be conducted under control of the court and that it should continue notwithstanding the decease of either party.

Quaere as to the effect of the death of either party on an arbitration under a contract of submission made independently of judicial proceedings where the contract provides that the arbitration shall in such event continue and the award be binding upon the representatives of the deceased party.

146 Mich. 401 affirmed.

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 Michigan.

Page 210 U. S. 84

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. Thereupon the case was brought here on error.

Page 210 U. S. 88

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