When parties have been fully heard in the regular course of
judicial proceedings, an erroneous decision does not deprive the
unsuccessful party of his property without due process of law
within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Where the federal question is raised for the first time on the
second appeal and the state court refuses to consider it, it comes
Unless a decision upon the federal question is necessary to the
judgment, or was in fact made the ground of the judgment, this
Court has no jurisdiction to review the judgment of the state
Writ of error to review 80 Ark. 339 dismissed.
The facts are stated in the opinion.
Page 213 U. S. 88
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1893 L. P. Featherstone qualified as administrator of the
estate of Mary A. Cole, deceased, in the Probate Court of St.
Francis County, Arkansas, with E. Bonner, one of the plaintiffs in
error, as one of the sureties on his bond. In 1894, Featherstone,
as administrator, filed his first settlement, and moved from
Arkansas to Texas in 1895. Some time after he left the state, Henry
P. Gorman, the defendant in error, was appointed by the probate
court administrator in succession, and on February 1, 1898, he
filed his first settlement, a second settlement in 1901, and in
1903 his third settlement. July 19, 1899, two
Page 213 U. S. 89
of Featherstone's bondsmen, said E. Bonner and W. H. Coffey,
appeared in the probate court in obedience to its order and filed
the final settlement of Featherstone as administrator, in which
there appeared to be a balance due to him of $23.57. To this
settlement Gorman, administrator, and one of the heirs of the
estate, appeared and filed exceptions. These exceptions were
sustained by the probate court January 29, 1900, and a balance of
$991.28 found due from Featherstone as administrator, and he was
ordered to pay the same over to Gorman, as the administrator in
succession. From this order and judgment of the probate court,
Featherstone and his sureties, E. Bonner and Coffey, took an appeal
to the circuit court, which appeal was dismissed by that court at
the March term, 1901, for some informality, as the state supreme
February 12, 1900, suit was brought in the Circuit Court of St.
Francis County by Gorman, administrator, against said Bonner and
Coffey, to enforce the payment of the said judgment of $991.28. In
this suit Bonner and Coffey filed an answer and a cross-complaint,
to which Gorman, as administrator, filed a demurrer, which was
sustained by the court, and judgment entered in favor of
administrator Gorman against said sureties for $991.28. From this
judgment the sureties appealed to the state supreme court, where it
was affirmed October 10, 1903. 71 Ark. 480.
The court ruled, as sufficiently stated in the headnote,
"in a suit against the sureties of an administrator to recover
the amount that had been adjudged by the probate court to be due by
him to the estate, it is no defense that the probate court erred in
finding that any amount was due by such administrator, as the error
should have been corrected on appeal."
To restrain the enforcement of this judgment, E. Bonner filed a
bill in the Chancery Court of St. Francis County, Arkansas at the
December term, 1903. To this bill administrator Gorman and the
heirs filed a demurrer on May 9, 1904, which was overruled by the
court, and they then filed an answer.
Page 213 U. S. 90
The chancery court rendered a decree in favor of plaintiff E.
Bonner, enjoining Gorman, as administrator, and the heirs at law of
Mary A. Cole, from executing that judgment. From this decree Gorman
and the heirs at law appealed to the state supreme court, where it
was, on October 22, 1906, reversed, annulled, and set aside, and
the cause remanded to the chancery court, with directions to
dismiss the complaint for want of equity. 80 Ark. 339.
The rulings of the court were that,
"under the code, a defendant cannot permit judgment to go
against him upon a legal liability, and then enjoin the judgment in
equity upon equitable grounds known before the judgment at law was
rendered; a judgment of the circuit court against an administrator
and his bondsmen will not be enjoined in equity on the ground that
it was based on a void or fraudulent probate judgment, as that was
matter of defense which might have been pleaded in the circuit
The court also added that "it is not alleged or shown that there
was any fraud in the procurement of the judgment at law, and we see
no valid reason why it should be enjoined."
At the December Term, 1906, of the chancery court, a decree was
entered upon, and in accordance with, the mandate of the supreme
court, whereupon the said E. Bonner and E. L. Bonner, the latter
being the surety on the injunction bond, prayed an appeal to the
supreme court, which was granted. Gorman, administrator, and
others, then appellees, filed a motion to advance this appeal and
affirm the case as a delay case, and the supreme court granted the
motion to advance and affirmed the decree. The supreme court
rendered a per curiam opinion, which is to be found in 82 Ark. 423.
This memorandum stated that
"the only question in the case is whether the decree is in
conformity to the mandate of this Court. The record has been
carefully looked into, and the decree found to be in strict accord
with the mandate and opinion of the court, and there is nothing new
for consideration. Ordinarily this would stamp this case as a delay
case, and it should
Page 213 U. S. 91
be advanced and affirmed, and, under the practice in such cases,
the ten percent penalty would be added. But it is evident from the
record that the appellant has brought this case here in order to
seek a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the United States. It
will be with the chief justice to decide whether there is a federal
question herein; but, when a case is manifestly brought here in
good faith, to obtain a review in the federal Supreme Court,
although there is nothing in it for this court to consider, yet
such object prevents it being the class of cases where the penalty
should be inflicted."
A writ of error from this Court was allowed May 9, 1907, the
petition for the writ containing an assignment of errors, of which
one was that the judgment of the probate court was null and void,
and all other judgments bases upon it were void also, so that the
Bonners, appellants, by their enforcement, were deprived of their
property without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment. The record was filed here June 3, 1907, and the case
submitted February 23, 1909.
No federal question was raised in this case prior to the trial
and judgment on the merits. The only suggestion that such a
question was involved was put forward after the state supreme court
had affirmed, on the second appeal, the judgment rendered by the
chancery court in strict obedience to its mandate. Compliance with
the mandate was in fact the only question open to and determined by
the higher court.
It is firmly established that, when parties have been fully
heard in the regular course of judicial proceedings, an erroneous
decision of the state court does not deprive the unsuccessful party
of his property without due process of law within the Fourteenth
Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, Central
Land Company v. Laidley, 159 U. S. 112
and that, where a federal question is raised on a second appeal and
the state court refuses to consider it, it comes too late,
Union Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Kirchoff,
169 U. S. 110
And see Sayward v. Denny, 158 U.
; Mutual L. Ins. Co. v. McGrew,
188 U. S. 308
"according to the well
Page 213 U. S. 92
settled doctrine of this Court with regard to cases coming from
state courts, unless a decision upon a federal question was
necessary to the judgment, or in fact was made the ground of it,
the writ of error must be dismissed."
Arkansas Southern Railway Company v. German National
Bank, 207 U. S. 270
California Powder Works v. Davis, 151 U.
; St. Louis I. M. & S. Ry. Co. v.
Taylor, 210 U. S. 281
Writ of error dismissed.