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Statement of the Case.
SECURITY TRUST COMPANY v. BLACK RIVER
CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH
No. 39. Argued April 21, 22, 1902.-Decided December 1, 1902.
Under the statutes of the State of Minnesota and the decisions of the courts
of that State construing and applying them, a creditor cannot maintain a suit in the courts of that State for a debt against a decedent after the expiration of the period limited by the order of the probate court in which creditors may present claims against the deceased for examination and allowance, and after an allowance of the administrator's final account and
a final decree of distribution. Although it is a well settled principle that a foreign creditor may establish
bis debt in the courts of the United States against the personal representative of a decedent, notwithstanding the fact that the laws of the State limit the right to establish such demands to a proceeding in the probate courts of the State, it is also equally well settled that the courts of the United States in enforcing such claims are administering the laws of the State of the domicile and are bound by the same rules that govern the local tribunals; and if a foreign creditor of a Minnesota decedent delays proceedings in the Federal court until after the time to present claims fixed by the order of the probate court has expired and the final distribution of the estate has been effected, he cannot use the Federal courts to devolve a new responsibility upon the administrator and interfere with the rights of other parties, creditors or distributees, which have become vested under the regular and orderly administration of the estate
under the laws of the State. Although under the state statutes the probate court may, before final
settlement and upon good cause shown, extend the time for presentation of claims, this court is not called upon to determine in a case where no application for such extension was made before final settlement whether a Federal court might or might not, on good cause shown, extend such time. It is obvious and always has been held that the United States Cir. cuit Court cannot in the trial of an action at law exercise the powers of a court of equity.
In January, 1897, the Black River National Bank of Lowville brought an action in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota against the Security Trust Com
Statement of the Case.
pany of St. Paul, as administrator of the estate of Sumner W. Matteson, deceased. The complaint alleged that the plaintiff was a corporation duly organized under the national banking laws of the United States, having its place of business at Lowville, Lewis County, and State of New York; that the defendant was a corporation created by the laws of the State of Minnesota, having its place of business at the city of St. Paul and State of Minnesota, and had been duly appointed administrator of the estate of Sumner W. Matteson, deceased, by the proper probate court of Ramsey County, Minnesota, on or about the 3d day of September, 1895; that the said Matteson bad been during his lifetime a resident and citizen of the State of Minnesota.
For a cause of action the complaint averred that on the 27th day of February, 1894, the said Matteson had executed his two promissory notes, wherein for value received he promised to pay to the order of James H. Easton and Company, at the First National Bank of Decorah, Iowa, the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars, four months after date, with interest thereon at the rate of eight per cent per annum from date until paid; that thereafter, on March 22, 1894, and before the maturity of said notes, the said James H. Easton and Company, for value received, sold and assigned the same to the plaintiff ; that said James II. Easton and Company was a copartnership doing business at Decorah, and that all the members thereof were residents and citizens of the State of Iowa ; that no part of said notes has ever been paid except the interest thereon to the 24th day of November, 1894.
The complaint further alleged that the defendant, as administrator of the estate of Sumner W. Matteson, had in its hand and under its control property, money and effects which belonged in his lifetime to said Matteson, more than sufficient to pay the amount due the plaintiff ; that the estate of said Matteson was in process of settlement in the probate court of Ramsey County, State of Minnesota, and had not been fully and finally settled and probated, and that said administrator had never been discharged and was still the administrator of the estate of said Matteson, deceased; and plaintiff demanded judg
Statement of the Case.
ment against the defendant in the sum of five thousand dollars and interest thereon from the 24th day of November, 1894.
On February 12, 1897, the defendant appeared and answered, admitting those allegations of the complaint which alleged the making and transfer of said notes, and that the same remained unpaid in the hands of the plaintiff, but denying that the defendant had in its bands as administrator of said Matteson any money or property applicable to the payment of said notes. The answer also alleged that the estate of said Matteson had been fully settled, probated and administered upon and discharged from the probate court long prior to the commencement of plaintiff's action, and that the defendant had long before the commencement of this action turned over all property, money and effects of said estate remaining in its hands, to the persons entitled thereto, and that defendant long before the commencement of this action bad been discharged as such administrator, and was not when said action was brought and is not now administrator of the estate of said decedent.
On March 20, 1897, the plaintiff filed a reply, traversing the allegations of the answer. Thereafter and on the 18th day of January, 1899, a stipulation of facts and waiver of jury trial were filed. In the stipulation of facts it appeared that the estate of Matteson had been settled, administered upon and discharged from the probate court prior to the commencement of plaintiff's action in the Circuit Court of the United States.
On April 17, 1899, the cause came on to be heard, on the pleadings and stipulation of facts, and judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $6782.89, to be paid and enforced out of the property and effects of the intestate, Sumner W. Matteson, deceased ; and it was ordered further that this judgment be duly certified by this court to the probate court of Ramsey County as a claim duly approved, established and allowed against the estate of Sumner W. Matteson, deceased.
Subsequently the cause was taken to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, where on October 17, 1900, the judgment of the Circuit Court was affirmed, on authority of the case of the Security Trust Company, as Administrator of Sumner W. Matteson, deceased, v. William H.
Opinion of the Court.
Dent, as Receiver of the First National Bank of Decorah, reported in 104 Fed. Rep. 380.
Whereupon a writ of certiorari was prayed for and allowed, and the cause was brought to this court.
Mr. Edmund S. Durment for petitioner. Mr. Albert R. Moore was with him on the brief.
Mr. Edward C. Stringer for respondent. Mr. McNeil V. Seymour was with bim on the brief.
MR. JUSTICE Shiras, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.
This was a suit brought in January, 1897, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota, by the Black River National Bank of Low ville, incorporated under the national banking laws of the United States, and doing business in the county of Lewis and State of New York, against the Security Trust Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, as administrator of the estate of Sumner W. Matteson, deceased, seeking to recover the sum of five thousand dollars and interest thereon, due on certain promissory notes made by said Matteson in his lifetime, and which were alleged to be the property of the said national bank.
No defence was interposed as respected the execution of the notes or the ownership of the same by the bank. It was admitted that the Security Trust Company had been, on September 3, 1895, duly appointed by the probate court of Ramsey County, Minnesota, administrator of the estate of said Matteson. The defendant, however, alleged, in its answer that, as the action was not brought until after the time limited by the order of the probate court for the filing, examination and allowance of claims against Matteson's estate, nor until after the examination and allowance of the administrator's final account, under the laws of the State of Minnesota, the official existence of the defendant company as administrator had ceased, and therefore no action could be maintained against it, and also
Opinion of the Court.
that the right to a judgment on the notes in suit was, by the laws of Minnesota, forever barred, although they were owned by a non-resident of the State, and a recovery was sought in a Federal court.
Two inquiries are presented to us—first, whether, by virtue of the state statutes, the estate of Matteson had been so fully settled and administered, before the present action was brought, as to operate as a discharge of the administration, and as a bar to a right of the plaintiff to recover against the estate in the state courts; and, second, if the first question must be affimatively answered, whether, not withstanding such a condition of the statutory law of the State, an action can be successfully maintained by a citizen of another State in the Circuit Court of the United States on a cause of action not barred by the general statute of limitations of the State.
It is scarcely necessary to say that, as respects the first of these inquiries, we must find an answer in the provisions of the constitution and statutes of Minnesota as interpreted and construed by the Supreme Court of that State.
The state constitution and statutory provisions bearing upon the question involved are the following:
“ Constitution, art. VI, sec. 7. There shall be established in each organized county in the State a probate court, which shall be a court of record, and be held at such times and places as may be prescribed by law.
A probate court shall have jurisdiction over the estates of deceased
deceased persons and persons under guardianship, but no other jurisdiction, except as prescribed by this constitution.”
General Statutes, 1894:
“ SEC. 4523. The probate court at the time of granting letters testamentary or of administration shall make an order allowing to the executor or administrator a reasonable time, not exceeding one year and six months, for the settlement of the estate.
“SEC. 4524. The probate court may, upon good cause shown by the executor or admininistrator, extend the time for the settlement of the estate not exceeding one year at a time, unless in the judgment of the court a longer time be necessary.”
“SEC. 4527. When there is not sufficient personal estate in