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United States Supreme Court

77 U.S. 583

Stovall  v.  Banks

ERROR to the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

This was an action of covenant upon an administration bond, brought by the ordinary of Morgan County, Georgia, for the use of persons claiming to be distributees of the estate of Alfred Eubanks, deceased, against the administrator, who was the principal obligor, and against his sureties in the bond. At the trial the plaintiff offered in evidence the record of a suit in chancery in the Morgan County Superior Court, in which the persons for whose use this suit was brought were complainants, and the administrator, with others who also claimed to be heirs and distributees of the estate of the decedent, were defendants. By that record it appeared that the Superior Court adjudged the sum of $31,743.50, assets of the decedent's estate, to be in the hands of the administrator, and made an order distributing the whole. In the distribution $3820 were decreed to be paid to each of the complainants in the bill, and it was ordered that they should have executions for the respective sums adjudged to them on application to the clerk of the court after four days from its adjournment. The record further exhibited that executions were issued upon the decree, that no objection was made to the issue, and that to all of the executions the sheriff returned, 'No property of the defendant or of the estate of Alfred Eubanks to be found upon which to levy.'

In addition to this, however, the record showed that the court, after having fixed the sum due to each complainant, and ordered its payment, and after having awarded execution, went on to direct that the administrator should be allowed as payment to the respective parties, to be deducted from the amounts therein adjudged to them, the principal and interest of any note held by him against either of them; and also that the several shares of the parties to whom the estate was awarded should be subjected to ratable deduction for fees yet unpaid for the collection of notes belonging to the administrator.

When this record was offered in evidence the District Court rejected it, holding that the decree was not final, and consequently that it could not be read in evidence for any purpose in the case. This action of the court was now here for review.

Mr. J. D. Pope, for the plaintiff in error:

The last sentence in the decree was the ground doubtless for the rejection. But it was insufficient. It does not appear that any portion of the litigation was held back for future adjudication. A decree in which nothing is so held back must be final. The right reserved in the present case is no more than a right reserved to pay in any specific piece of property or in a designated kind of currency. A decree is not less final in its nature because some future orders of the court may possibly become necessary to carry it into effect. [1]

Mr. D. T. Walker, contra:

1. The record of the suit in the Morgan County court, offered in evidence and rejected by the court below, was so incomplete that it would not support an action. Matters were left open by it, and until these were adjusted the decree had nothing specific and final in it. The case of Sadler v. Robins, 1 Campbell's Nisi Prius, [2] seems exactly in point. The attention of this court is directed to it.

2. If admitted, the decree would have such effect only as it had in the State court, and in that court it was only prim a facie evidence as to the surety. Judgments bind none but parties and privies, and there is no such privity between principal and surety. [3] If it had been admitted, and that effect had been given to it, the result in this case would have been the same.

3. Finally, the court of Morgan County and the Supreme Court of the State, we may add, on appeal, fell into the fatal error of holding the marriage, in virtue of which the distributees in this case claimed, to have been voidable instead of void.

[The counsel then went into an argument upon evidence taken on commissions from the court of Morgan County and found in the transcript, to show that the distributees, for whose use the suit below was brought, claimed in virtue of a marriage which had no legal existence.]

Mr. Pope, in reply, went largely into this same evidence, to show that the conclusions of the opposing counsel could not on the evidence be sustained.

Mr. Justice STRONG delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  Thompson v. Dean, 7 Wallace, 342; Railroad Company v. Bradley, Ib. 575.

^2  Page 253.

^3  Bryant v. Owen, 1 Kelley, 369-371.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).