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ELLIS V. DAVIS, 109 U. S. 485 (1883)

U.S. Supreme Court

Ellis v. Davis, 109 U.S. 485 (1883)

Ellis v. Davis

Argued November 9, 12, 1883

Decided December 10, 1883

109 U.S. 485


1. When an heir at law brings a suit in equity to set aside the probate of a will in Louisiana as null and void and to recover real estate and prays for an accounting of rents and profits by an adverse party in possession, who claims under the will, this Court will refuse to entertain the prayer for recovery of possession if the complainant has a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at the common law. Hipp v. Babin, 19 How. 271, affirmed.

2. Circuit courts, as courts of equity, have no general jurisdiction for annulling or affirming the probate of a will. Broderick's Will, 21 Wall. 503, affirmed.

3. Jurisdiction as to wills and their probate as such is neither included in nor excepted out of the grant of judicial power to the courts of the United States. So far as it is ex parte and merely administrative, it is

Page 109 U. S. 486

not conferred, and it cannot be exercised by them at all until, in a case at law or in equity, its exercise becomes necessary to settle a controversy of which a court of the United States may take cognizance by reason of the citizenship of the parties.

4. If by the law obtaining in a state, a suit whose object is to annul and set aside the probate of a will of real estate can be maintained, it may be maintained in a federal court when the parties are on one side citizens of the state in which the will is proved, and on the other citizens of other states. Gainer v. Fuentes, 92 U. S. 18, approved.

5. By the laws of Louisiana, an action of revendication is the proper one to be brought for the purpose of asserting the legal title and right of possession of the heir at law to the succession, when another is in possession under claim of title by virtue of a will admitted to probate. In a proper case as to parties, this action can be brought in the circuit court of the United States. And as it furnishes a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law, it is a bar to the prosecution of a suit in chancery.

6. In regard to the transfer of the Beauvoir estate to the defendant by the testatrix in her lifetime, no fraud is shown to warrant the interference of a court of equity.

Bill in equity by the appellants as heirs at law and next of kin to recover possession of real estate, part of which was devised to the appellee, by Sarah Ann Dorsey, by will duly proved in the Louisiana, and part of which was situated in Mississippi and was given to him by Mrs. Dorsey in her lifetime, and to set aside the will as made under undue influence, and the conveyance as obtained by the exercise of undue and improper influence, and to have an accounting of rents and profits. Demurrer to the bill. The bill was dismissed below. The plaintiffs appealed.

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