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decided: May 25, 1891.



Author: Fuller

[ 141 U.S. Page 101]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

No objection was made in the Chancery Court of Shelby County to the record of the proceedings in the Supreme Court of New York upon the ground that the transcript was incomplete or not properly authenticated. If the objections were well taken, they were removable, and they should have been raised in the court below. The record was, however, in our opinion duly exemplified, Rev. Stat. ยง 905; Maxwell v. Stewart, 22 Wall. 77; and was in itself complete.

The judgment or decree of the New York court was entitled to the same credit and effect in the State of Tennessee that it had in the State of New York where it was rendered. Did it receive it?

Mrs. Carpenter, Mrs. Strange and A. P. Merrill were all citizens of New York at the time of the death of the latter and the probate of his will. The action was commenced against Mrs. Strange as executrix, upon personal service, and she appeared and answered the complaint. That complaint alleged that A. P. Merrill was indebted to the plaintiff for certain trust moneys belonging to her which he had converted to his own use, and that he had conveyed to Mrs. Strange certain real state in Tennessee under such circumstances as caused the deed to be inoperative and void as against plaintiff's claim. And it was further averred that A. P. Merrill had devised a life estate to plaintiff in certain real estate upon

[ 141 U.S. Page 102]

     condition that she would renounce her claim for the trust moneys; and that she had not renounced, nor had she refused to renounce, because others were interested in the trust fund, and for the further reason that the condition was against conscience and justice. She therefore prayed for a decree against the defendant as executrix for the trust moneys; that the condition annexed to the devise be declared void, and the title to the real estate named be vested in her freed therefrom; and that the deed of Merrill to Mrs. Strange be declared void as against plaintiff's claim.

Mrs. Strange answered the complaint fully, and among other things denied the existence of the claim, alleged the validity of the deed of Merrill to herself, and as to the devise to plaintiff of the life estate, insisted that that devise ought to be taken and accepted by plaintiff as a full satisfaction of her claims against Merrill's estate, and prayed that it be so adjudged and decreed, and that plaintiff be compelled to release. The parties being thus at issue before a court of competent jurisdiction, the decree of that court put an end to the controversies properly litigated between them. There was no question but that the Supreme Court of New York had complete jurisdiction over the person and other the subject matter, unless in reference to the deed made by Merrill to Mrs. Strange, which involves questions requiring separate consideration. The judgment or decree was that Mrs. Carpenter recover against the estate of the decedent, and of the executrix as such, the sum of $16,436.70; that the conveyance by A. P. Merrill to Mrs. Strange was void so far as it affected the indebtedness of the estate to Mrs. Carpenter; and that any bequest or devise in A. P. Merrill's will in favor of any person or persons whatever was subject to the payment of the judgment. In the New York suit and in the bills of complaint in the Chancery Court of Shelby County, Mrs. Carpenter made substantially the same allegations in regard to the devise and its condition, and Mrs. Strange the same defence, insisting not that Mrs. Carpenter had elected, but that she ought to be compelled to accept the devise in full satisfaction of all claims and demands that Mrs. Carpenter had against Merrill at the time

[ 141 U.S. Page 103]

     of his death, or now had against his estate, or against Mrs. Strange in her capacity as executrix.

By the New York judgment Mrs. Carpenter's prayer that the devise should be freed from the condition, and Mrs. Strange's that Mrs. Carpenter should be required to accept the devise with the condition, were both in legal effect denied. And by the terms of the judgment the plaintiff recovered the amount of the trust money. This she could not have done if she had elected to take under the will, which would have subjected her to the operation of the condition. That judgment was a judgment de bonis testatoris, and it became Mrs. Strange's duty as executrix to apply the property of the testator whereever situated to the payment of the judgment.

There is no doubt whatever that a Federal question is presented by the record, but it is said that, conceding this, yet the Supreme Court of Tennessee also decided the case upon a question of general law sufficiently broad to support the judgment even if the Federal question was decided erroneously. And the ground thus referred to is that that court held that Mrs. Carpenter could not recover as a creditor of the estate of her father because she had elected to claim under his will as devisee. But that question was not open to the Supreme Court to decide, if it gave full faith and credit to the judicial proceedings of a sister State, since it had already been passed upon and determined by the New York court, whose judgment was put in evidence. That court, as we have already stated, not only refused to sustain Mrs. Carpenter's contention as to the invalidity of the condition, and Mrs. Strange's, that the devise must be accepted, but rendered judgment for the money and thereby determined that Mrs. Carpenter had forfeited her right to the devise. In that suit the parties were the same, the subject matter was the same, the issues were the same, as in this, and the judgment not only bound the estate, but bound Mrs. Carpenter in respect of the devise as well.

The decision before us is exactly to the contrary. It obliterates the judgment, and turns Mrs. Carpenter from a judgment creditor into a devisee. We perceive no ground upon which it ...

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