Clarke v. MathewsonAnnotate this Case
37 U.S. 164
U.S. Supreme Court
Clarke v. Mathewson, 37 U.S. 12 Pet. 164 164 (1838)
Clarke v. Mathewson
37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 164
A bill was filed by W., a citizen of Connecticut, against M. and others, citizens of Rhode Island, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Rhode Island. An answer was put in to the bill and the cause was referred to a master for an account. Pending these proceedings, the complainant died, and administration of his effects was granted to C., a citizen of Rhode Island, who filed a bill of reviver in the circuit court. The laws of Rhode Island do not permit a person residing out of the state to take out administration of the effects of a deceased person within the state, and make such administration indispensable to the prosecution and defense of any suit in the state, in right of the estate of the deceased. Held that the bill of reviver was in no just sense an original suit, but was a mere continuation of the original suit. The parties to the original suit were citizens of different states, and the jurisdiction of the court completely attached to the controversy. Having so attached, it could not be divested by any subsequent proceedings, and the Circuit Court of Rhode Island has rightful authority to proceed to its final determination.
If, after the proper commencement of a suit in the circuit court, the plaintiff removes into and becomes a citizen of the same state with the defendant, the jurisdiction of the circuit court over the cause is not affected by such change of domicile.
The death of a party pending a suit does not, where the cause of action survives, amount to a determination of the suit. It might, in suits at common law, upon the mere principles of that law have produced an abatement of the suit, which would have destroyed it. But in courts of equity, an abatement of the suit by the death of the party has always been held to have a very different effect, for such abatement amounts to a mere suspension, and not to a determination of the suit. It may again be put in motion by a bill of reviver, and the proceedings being revived, the court proceeds to its determination as an original bill.
A bill of reviver is not the commencement of a new suit, but is the mere continuance of the old suit. It is upon ground somewhat analogous that the circuit courts are held to have jurisdiction in cases of cross-bills and injunction bills touching suits and judgments already in those courts.
In the 31st section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress manifestly treats the reviver of a suit by or against the representatives of the deceased party as a matter of right, and as a mere continuance of the original suit, without any distinction as to the citizenship of the representative, whether he belongs to the same state where the cause is depending or to another state.
Willard W. Wetmore, a citizen of Connecticut, filed a bill to June term, 1830, of the Circuit Court of the District of Rhode Island against Henry Mathewson, Cyrus Butler, Edward Carrington, and Samuel Wetmore, citizens of the State of Rhode Island, claiming an account of certain mercantile adventures in which he alleged himself to have been interested, together with the books, invoices, and list of passengers on board of the ship Superior, in which he asserted he was interested, and for a full settlement of all accounts between him and the defendants, and for such other and further relief in the premises as the court might think proper.
The separate answer of Henry Mathewson to the complainant's bill was filed in September, 1830, the answers of the other defendants having been filed in June or July of the same year.
A supplemental answer was afterwards filed by Henry Mathewson, and in November, 1831, after various pleadings in the case, counsel having been heard, the cause was referred to a master to take and state an account between the parties, &c. The parties appeared before the master and his assistants, and an examination of the accounts was had and proceeded in.
In 1834, before a report was made by the master, Willard W. Wetmore died, and administration of his estate and effects was granted by and out of the Municipal Court of the City of Providence in the State of Rhode Island to John H. Clarke, a citizen of that state, who thereupon filed a bill in the circuit court to revive the suit and prayed that the same should stand in the same situation as at the decease of the original complainant, Willard W. Wetmore.
On 7 July, 1834, Henry Matthewson appeared in the circuit court, denied the jurisdiction of the court, and moved to dismiss the suit on the ground that John H. Clarke was a citizen of the State of Rhode Island, as were also the defendants. At November term, 1835, the circuit court dismissed the bill for want of jurisdiction, and the complainant appealed to this Court.