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and his other creditors, did, together with his wife, convey by deed bearing date January 14, 1873, to Franklin L. Parker, in consideration of one dollar and of said Parker's liability as surety for said Morgan; that this conveyance was recorded June 15, 1875, in the office of the register of deeds for the county of Washtenaw; and that, when said deed was executed and delivered, Parker was in no way liable as surety for said Morgan, nor was Morgan indebted to Parker; and that Parker did not pay, nor did Morgan receive, any consideration for said conveyance, but the same was purely voluntary, and it was given and received by the parties thereto for the purpose of concealing the property of Morgan, and of defrauding his creditors; and that such deed was delivered and received upon a secret trust with Parker, who held the lands conveyed for the benefit of Morgan, and to sell and dispose of the same as trustee for Morgan. And, upon information and belief, it is further alleged that Franklin L. Parker sold and conveyed a large number of the parcels of land described in Exhibit D, aud has received large sums of money therefor. The particular parcels conveyed by Parker are not known to complainant, who asks a full and complete discovery of the trusts under which said lands were received and held by Parker, and of the property, money, and effects received by him therefor. It is further charged, upon information and belief, that in the year 1873, and until the death of Lucy W. S. Morgan, in 1887, Elijah W. Morgan was indebted to complainant and other persons in large amounts, and was insoivent; that, in 1874, Morgan combined with his wife, Lucy, her nephew Franklin L. Parker, and the latter's wife, Lucy D. S. Parker, to conceal and protect his property from his creditors; and that all of the conveyances under which the defendants claim title to the lands described in the bill were made in pursuance of such confederacy; and that the grantees knew the insolvent condition of Morgan, and acted with him to effect his fraudulent purpose in making such conveyances. Upon information and belief, it is alleged by complainant that Morgan was on the 5th day of April, 1889, and for several years prior thereto had been, incompetent to have the charge of his person and the management of his property, and on the last-named date, upon the application of defendants Kinne, Parker, and Johnson, as such executors, Franklin L. Parker was, by the order and decree of the probate court of Washtenaw county, appointed guardian of the person and estate of Morgan; that he qualified as such, and entered upon his duties, and continued to act as such guardian until Morgan's death, On information and belief, it is further alleged that for many years prior to the time wlien he became incompetent, and up to the time of his insolvency, Morgan had been and was a man of large property and business interests in the city of Ann Arbor, engaged in business there, and possessed of real and personal estate, in the county of his residence and elsewhere, of the value of more than $100,000; that he was careful and precise in the keeping of books, accounts, and papers, and generally in his business methods, and accumulated a large number of deeds, agreements, books of account, receipts, vouchers, and other documents relative to his property rights and interests and business dealings; and that these deeds, books, etc., at some time came into the possession of defendants Kinne, Johnson, and Parker, who have since retained the same, and now have them in possession, with a large number of other papers, books, accounts, etc., belonging to said Franklin L. Parker, and relating to the right, title, interest, and claim of Morgan in and to his real and personal estate and property. Discovery is prayed of these books, papers, and documents. The bill charges, upon information and belief, that defendant Manley has used due diligence to find and take into possession the real and personal estate of Morgan, but has not succeeded therein, because of the actings and doings of the other defendants, and has not possessed himself of property belonging to Morgan in his lifetime sufficient to discharge any considerable portion of the debts owing by Morgan at his death, because of the fraudulent transfers, convey. ances, and combination of Morgan, his wife, Franklin L. Parker, and his wife, Lucy D. S. Parker.
As excusatory of the apparent delay of complainant in enforcing his claim against Morgan and his alleged fraudulent grantees, the bill states: "That from the year A. D. 1876, until the time of the filing of this your orator's bill
of coraplaint, he has, by all means at his command, and with all due diligence, endeavored to discover property and assets belonging to said Elijah W. Morgan and his estate out of which to satisfy said claim, demand, and judgment, but by reason of the aforesaid fraudulent actings and doings of said Elijah W. Morgan, Lucy W. S. Morgan, and Franklin L. Parker in their respective lifetimes, and of their representatives since their decease, and of said defendant Lucy D. S. Parker, and by reason of their fraudulent concealment of the aforesaid equitable interests, claims, demands, causes of action, real and personal estate, goods, and chattels belonging to said Elijah W. Morgan and his estate, your orator has been prevented hitherto from so obtaining satisfaction of his aforesaid debt, claim, demand, and judgment; and also that your orator did not discover the facts hereinbefore stated until a few months prior to the commencement of his said suit against the said Elijah W. Morgan in said circuit court of the United States for the Eastern district of Michigan; and also from that time your orator has with all due diligence, and by all ways and means in his power, endeavored to discover such assets of said Elijah W. Morgan and his said estate to obtain satisfaction of his said debt, claim, demand, and judgment out of such assets.”
A large number of interrogatories are appended to the bill, to be answered by the defendants, or some of them. The bill prays that defendant Manley set forth an account of the personal estate of Morgan, the amount and particulars thereof possessed by him, how much thereof has been disposed of by him in payment of the intestate's debts and otherwise, what debts and amounts remain unsatisfied, and a discovery of the real estate of which Morgan was seised or entitled; that an account may be taken under the direction of this court of the debts owing by Morgan to complainant and others, and of the personal estate of Morgan now in the hands of defendants, or any of them; that the same may be applied to the payment of the debts of Morgan; that the real estate described in the bill, or so much as is necessary, may be decreed to be sold for the payment of the indebtedness owing by Morgan; that a receiver of the money, property, things in action, real estate, chattels real, and other property and effects of the estate of Elijah W. Morgan may be appointed; and that defendants may be directed to assign, convey, and deliver to such receiver all the property, equitable interests, effects, notes, bonds, mortgages, deeds, books of account, contracts, papers, and securities relating to Morgan's estate; and that defendants appear before the master of this court, and submit to an examination in relation to any matters which they may be legally required to disclose; and that the defendants, and each of them, may be restrained by injunction from receiving the rents and profits of the real estate belonging to Morgan, and from collecting and receiving any of such outstanding personal.estate, and from assigning and selling, transferring, conveying, or in any manner disposing of or intermeddling with the said real and personal property, effects, etc.; and for other relief.
To this bill, the defendants Kinne and Johnson, as executors, have demurred, and defendant Lucy D. S. Parker has also filed a demurrer. Each of these pleadings sets forth seven grounds of demurrer. In the view taken by the court of the bill, only the second and the seventh need be considered. These are as follows: “Second. That it appears by the said bill that the entire subject matter concerning which any relief or discovery is asked is, and was at the time of filing said bill, entirely and exclusively within the cognizance and jurisdiction of the probate court for the county of Washtenaw, Eastern district of Michigan; that the said estate of Elijah W. Morgan and said estate of Franklin L. Parker are both in process of administration by said probate court; and that the same have not been fully administered upon; and that the laws of the state of Michigan give to its probate courts exclusive jurisdiction over the estates of deceased persons.” “Seventh. That said bill is entirely wanting in equity, and does not set forth any facts upon which complainant is entitled to any relief whatever.” These demurrers are verified by the defendants, and are certified by counsel to be well founded in point of law, as required by general equity rule 31.
Fraser & Gates, for complainant.
SWAN, District Judge (after stating the facts). The first question presented for determination is that as to the jurisdiction of this court to interfere with the property in the possession of the probate court for the county of Washtenaw. The bill calls upon the court virtually to dispossess the administrators of Mrs. Morgan and the executrix of Franklin L. Parker of all control over the property committed to their charge, and to assume the administration of that property, and its distribution among the parties entitled. It prays the appointment of a receiver, and the transfer to this court of all the muniments of title, books of account, securities, documents, and papers, of every kind and nature, belonging to the estate of Elijah W. Morgan, his wife, Lucy W. S. Morgan, and the defendant Lucy D. S. Parker, and an injunction against all interference with the real and personal estate held by the defendants, as executors and administrators, and that of Lucy D. S. Parker, individually.
The rule is well established that “the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States over controversies between citizens of different states cannot be impaired by the laws of the state which prescribe the modes of redress in their courts or which regulate the distribu. tion of their judicial power"; and that “the equity jurisdiction conferred on the federal courts is the same as that the high court of chancery possesses, is subject to neither limitation or restraint by state legislation, and is uniform throughout the different states of the Union.” Payne v. Hook, 7 Wall. 425, 430. The only qualification in the application of this principle is that the courts of the United States, in the execution of their jurisdiction over the parties, cannot seize or control property while in the custody of a court of the state. Williams v. Benedict, 8 How. 107; Yonley v. Lavender, 21 Wall. 276; Freeman v. Howe, 24 How. 450; Borer v. Chapman, 119 U. S. 600, 7 Sup. Ct. 342. These cases and many others to the same point are cited and approved in Byers v. McAuley, 149 U. S. 608, 13 Sup. Ct. 906. The consequences of this court taking to itself jurisdiction, and granting the relief prayed by complainant's bill, would be similar in all respects to those which followed the assumption of jurisdiction in the case last cited, where the court below took full control of the administration of the estate, and the administrator appointed by the register of Alleghany county, Pa., pursuant to the statutes of that state, was subjected to the orders of both the federal and state courts. Of these consequences, the supreme court said in the case last cited that "no officer appointed by any court should be placed under the stress which rested upon this administrator, and compelled for his own protection to seek orders from two courts in respect to the administration of the two estates."
Under the decisions of the supreme court in cases where a citizen of another state has resorted to the federal tribunals for the assertion of his rights against the administrator of the decedent citi. zen of a state where the suit is brought, the utmost relief which he can obtain is the establishment of his debt by the judgment of the federal court against the executor or administrator. He then becomes entitled to come in under the law of the state for such pay. ment upon his judgment as that law, marshaling the rights of cred.
itors, awards to creditors of his class. He obtains no prior lien , upon the property, but simply fixes, by the judgment, his status as a creditor, which the administrator is legally bound to recognize in the payment of the debts. The limit to which the federal court may go in favor of such creditor therefore stops short of any interference with the state tribunal which has acquired jurisdiction of the estates of decedents. When the estate is ready for distribution, it is held in Byers v. McAuley, supra, that "the circuit court of the United States might entertain jurisdiction in favor of all citizens of other states, and determine and award their shares of the estate; further than that, it was not at liberty to go."
So far, then, as the bill seeks to disturb or interfere with the property in the custody of the probate court for the county of Washtenaw, and for the administration thereof by this court, by receiver or otherwise, the relief prayed cannot be granted, and the bill cannot be sustained as against the defendants other than Lucy D. S. Parker individually.
As the property attached on the plaintiff's judgment was then admittedly in the possession of the defendants Kinne and Johnson, as administrators of Lucy W. S. Morgan, under their appointment by the probate court for the county of Washtenaw, the attachment was a breach of the rule of comity which protects property in the possession of a state court from process issued out of the federal court, and is invalid for the enforcement of the right claimed by the attaching creditor. Heidritter v.·Oilcloth Co., 112 U. S. 294, 302, 5 Sup. Ct. 135; Shields v. Coleman, 157 U. S. 168, 15 Sup. Ct. 570.
2. As the conclusion reached upon this ground of demurrer would not authorize the dismissal of the bill as against Lucy D. S. Parker individually, it becomes necessary to pass upon the demurrer for want of equity. Under this demurrer, and even if it had not been pleaded, it would be competent for the court, upon its own view of the case made by the bill, to decline to enter into any inquiry into the matters charged therein, admitting them to be true, which is the effect of the demurrer, if the court ought not, upon the inherent principles of equity, to grant the relief prayed. It is not necessary that the defendants should have demurred expressly on the ground of laches of complainant, or should have in terms based their defense upon the statute of limitations.
The rule which governs courts of equity in determining the rights of parties where it is apparent that there has been long delay in seeking the aid of the court, and no extenuating facts are set forth to account for such delay, is stated in Badger v. Badger, 2 Wall. 8794, as follows:
“In such cases courts of equity act upon their own inherent doctrine of discouraging, for the peace of society, antiquated demands, and refuse to interfere where there has been gross laches in prosecuting the claim, or long acquiescence in the assertion of adverse rights. Long acquiescence and laches by parties out of possession are productive of much hardship and injustice to others, and cannot be excused but by showing some actual hin' drance or impediment, caused by the fraud or concealment of the parties in possession, which will appeal to the conscience of the chancellor. The party who makes such appeal should set forth in his bill specifically what were the impediments to an earlier prosecution of his claim; how he came to be
so long ignorant of his rights, and the means used by the respondent to fraudulently keep him in ignorance; and how and when he first came to a kuowledge of the matters alleged in his bill; otherwise, the chancellor may justly refuse to consider his case, on his own showing, without inquiring whether there is a demurrer or formal plea of the statute of limitations contained in the answer.”
In Wood v. Carpenter, 101 U. S. 135, the defendant was charged with fraud in the disposition of his property in a suit by a judgment creditor, who had recovered judgment in 1860, and brought suit thereon in 1872; alleging that the debtor had in 1858, in order to defraud his creditors, confessed judgments, incumbered his property, and, in 1862, conveyed his real and personal estate to sundry persons, who held the same in secret trust for him. The debtor was arrested in 1862, on final process, to compel the payment of the judgment; but deposing that he was not worth $20, and had in good faith assigned all his property to pay his creditors, he was released, pursuant to the law of the state. The creditor believing the statement of the debtor, and accepting his assurance that his son-in-law would, with his own means, purchase the judgment for 50 cents of the principal and interest, sold it, in 1864, to the debtor's son-in-law. The creditor afterwards discovered that the money he received for the judgment belonged to the debtor, who had acquired an indefeasible title to the property. The creditor sued for the amount of which he had been defrauded by the deceit of his debtor, who pleaded the statute of limitations in defense of the suit. The court held that the statute of limitations commenced running when the fraud was perpetrated, and it was not avoided by the replication averring that the debtor had fraudulently concealed the facts stated in the decla. ration touching the incumbrance and conveyance of his property, its real ownership, and the confessions of judgments, and that the creditor had no knowledge of them until a short time before suit was brought. By the statute of Indiana, where the suit, was tried, actions of that nature were required to be commenced within six years after the cause of action accrued, although it was provided that, "if any person liable to an action shall conceal the fact from the person entitled thereto, the action may be commenced at any time within the period of limitation, after the discovery of the cause of action." Rev. St. 1894, § 301.1 There was no averment in plaintiff's pleading that, during the period over which the transactions under inquiry extended, the plaintiff ever made the slightest inquiry in relation to either of them. There, as here, the material facts were of record, and the conveyances complained of were also recorded. The court said of these conveyances and judgments:
"If they were in trust for the defendant, as alleged, proper diligence could not have failed to find a clue in every case that would have led to evidence not to be resisted. With the strongest motives to action, the plaintiff was supine. If underlying frauds existed, as he alleges, he did nothing to unearth them. It was his duty to make the effort. * * * The discovery of the cause of action, if such it may be termed, is thus set forth: ‘And the plaintiff further avers that he had no knowledge of the facts so concealed by the defendant until the year A. D. 1872, and a few weeks only before the
1 Rev. St. 1881, 8 300.