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PAYNE V. HOOK, 74 U. S. 425 (1868)

U.S. Supreme Court

Payne v. Hook, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 425 425 (1868)

Payne v. Hook

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 425


1. The equity jurisdiction and remedies conferred by the Constitution and statutes of the United States cannot be limited or restrained by state legislation, and are uniform throughout the different states of the Union. Hence the circuit court for any district embracing a particular state will have jurisdiction of an equity proceeding against an administrator (if according to the received principles of equity a case for equitable relief is stated), notwithstanding that by a peculiar structure of the state probate system such a proceeding could not be maintained in any court of the state.

2. In a bill in equity in the circuit court, by one distributee of an intestate's estate against an administrator, it is not indispensable that such distributes make the other distributees parties if the court is able to proceed to a decree, either through a reference to a master or some other proper way, to do justice to the parties before it without injury to absent parties equally interested.

3. The sureties of an administrator on his official bond may properly be joined with him in an equity proceeding for an erroneous and fraudulent administration of the estate by him, and where, if a balance should be found against the administrator, those sureties would be liable.

Page 74 U. S. 426

4. A bill involving but a single matter and affecting all defendants alike is not multifarious, although it may seek both to open settlements and to cancel receipts as fraudulent

Ann Payne, a citizen of Virginia, exhibited her bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for Missouri against Zadoc Hook, Public Administrator of Calloway County in that state, and his sureties on his official bond, all citizens of Missouri, to obtain her distributive share in the estate of her brother, Fielding Curtis, who died intestate in 1861 and whose estate was committed to the charge of the public administrator by order of the County Court of Calloway County. It appeared that Curtis never married and that his nearest of kin were entitled to distribution of his estate. The bill, without mentioning of what state they were citizens and without making them complainants, set forth the names of the distributees, brothers or sisters, like the complainant, of the intestate, or their children. The bill charged gross misconduct on the part of the administrator; that he had made false settlements with the Court of Probate; withheld a true inventory of the property in his hands; used the money of the estate for his private gain; and obtained from the claimant, by fraudulent representations, a receipt in full for her share of the estate, on the payment of a less sum than she was entitled to receive. The object of the bill was to obtain relief against these fraudulent proceedings and to compel a true account of administration in order that the real condition of the estate can be ascertained and the complainant paid what justly belongs to her. It appeared from the bill that Hook had not yet made his final settlement.

The defendant demurred generally, and without assigning any specific grounds for the demurrer. On the argument of the demurrer below, the demurrer was endeavored to be supported,

1. Because, in Missouri, exclusive jurisdiction over all disputes concerning the duties or accounts of administrators, until final settlement, is given to the local county court, which is the court of probate, and because, as the administration complained of was still in progress in the County

Page 74 U. S. 427

Court of Calloway County, resort was to be had to that court to correct the accounts of the administrator, if fraudulent or erroneous.

2. Because the other distributees were not made parties, and so that the case was without proper parties.

3. Because the sureties of the administrator were joined in the proceeding.

4. Because the bill was multifarious.

The court below sustained the demurrer, and the complainant electing to abide by her pleading, the bill was dismissed, and the case brought here by appeal.

Page 74 U. S. 429

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