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HARRISON v. PEREA. PEREA V. HARRISON.

decided: November 29, 1897.

HARRISON
v.
PEREA.

PEREA
v.
HARRISON.



APPEALS FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF NEW MEXICO.

Author: PECKHAM

[ 168 U.S. Page 318]

 MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

The question first arising in this case is in regard to the correctness of the decisions of the courts below in allowing complainant's exceptions to portions of the answer of the defendant Harrison and in sustaining the demurrer to defendant's cross bill. The decision of the two matters rests in this case upon essentially the same foundation. If the allegations of the defendant's answer to the original bill are impertinent, it would follow that in this case the cross bill would be multifarious, and that the demurrer on that ground should be sustained. The allegations in the two pleadings are of the same nature, only in the cross bill they are very greatly extended and set forth in almost infinite detail.

Impertinence is described by Lord Chief Baron Gilbert to be: "Where the records of the court are stuffed with long recitals, or with long digressions of matter of fact, which are altogether unnecessary and totally immaterial to the matter in question." 1 Daniell's Chancery Pl. & Pr., (5th Am. ed.) marginal paging, 349. It is also said that impertinence is the introduction of any matters in a bill, answer or other pleading

[ 168 U.S. Page 319]

     in the suit which are not properly before the court for decision at any particular stage of the suit. Wood v. Mann, 1 Sumner, 578. "The best test to ascertain whether matter be impertinent is to try whether the subject of the allegation be put in issue in the matter in dispute between the parties." All matter not material to the suit is regarded as impertinent. Woods v. Morrell, 1 Johns. Ch. 103; 1 Daniell, supra, 349, note.

As to multifariousness, it was said in Shields v. Thomas, 18 How. 253, 259: "There is, perhaps, no rule established for the conducting of equity pleadings, with reference to which (whilst as a rule it is universally admitted) there has existed less of certainty and uniformity in application, than has attended this relating to multifariousness. This effect, flowing, perhaps inevitably, from the variety of modes and degrees of right and interest entering into the transactions of life, seems to have led to a conclusion rendering the rule almost as much an exception as a rule, and that conclusion is, that each case must be determined by its peculiar features. Thus Daniell, in his work on Chancery Practice, vol. 1, p. 384, quoting from Lord Cottenham, says: 'It is impossible, upon the authorities, to lay down any rule or abstract proposition, as to what constitutes multifariousness, which can be made universally applicable. The cases upon the subject are extremely various, and the court, in deciding upon them, seems to have considered what was convenient in particular cases, rather than to have attempted to lay down an absolute rule.'" Continuing his opinion, the learned justice in the above case said: "Justice Story, in his compilation upon equity pleading, defines multifariousness in a bill to mean 'the improperly joining in one bill distinct and independent matters, and thereby confounding them.' . . . Justice Story closes his review of the authorities upon this defect in a bill with the following remark: 'The conclusion to which a close survey of the authorities will conduct us, seems to be, that there is not any positive inflexible rule as to what, in the sense of a court of equity, constitutes multifariousness, which is fatal to a suit on demurrer.'"

Upon consideration of the various cases, we think that in

[ 168 U.S. Page 320]

     allowing the exceptions to the answer and in sustaining the demurrer to the cross bill, the courts below committed no error. The facts which the defendant Harrison endeavored to set up in his answer and cross bill were not relevant to the matters properly in issue in this suit. Neither the convenience of the parties nor their rights in regard to the matters set forth in the original bill would be aided by entering upon an inquiry relating to the matters set up in the answer and cross bill. It is clear that an investigation and accounting, such as is asked for in the cross bill, would take a long time, probably many years, to finish, involving as it would an inquiry into the amount of the community property of the elder Perea and his wife in 1842, and what should be found to be the actual increase springing from the same; also an inquiry into the transactions of the administrators of the estate of the elder Perea and into their liability on account of the same, together with the taking of evidence upon the subject of the fraudulent character of the decree of the probate court discharging the administrators of that estate. It would in addition include an inquiry into the question whether the administrators, if the decree were set aside, had been guilty of such conduct in the care and management of the estate coming into their hands as would make them liable for any loss sustained by the estate in consequence of such action. In fine, it is seen that the character of the investigation demanded by the cross bill and of the relief sought thereby is extensive enough to call for an almost interminable amount of research and labor. These considerations are not of the slightest moment when weighed against the legal rights of the parties interested in the question; and their right to have such investigation made and adequate and proper relief granted is not a matter of discretion or of favor. If they have not slept upon their rights and if they come into court at the proper time and in a proper action, the court will enter upon the necessary investigation and grant such relief as they may be entitled to. On the other hand, these considerations are most material and vital upon the question of the necessity or propriety of such an investigation in this suit which was

[ 168 U.S. Page 321]

     brought for a different purpose, and which would be necessarily greatly delayed in its termination if such an inquiry should be now entered upon.

Let us look for a moment at the simple character of this suit. It is brought to recover as administrator the assets of the estate of the minor already mentioned, the possession of which the defendant Harrison does not deny. He shows no right to them as against the complainant, because the facts he sets up in his answer form no defence. Nor do the same facts when set forth in the cross bill constitute a cause of action against this complainant, proper to be proved and defended against in this suit, as against the demand of the complainant herein. It is plain that the complainant, as the surviving administrator of the estate of the deceased minor, was entitled to the immediate possession of all the assets of such estate. Upon the death of the minor the guardianship of the mother ceased, and as she was thereupon appointed administratrix, her continuing to hold the assets of the estate from the time of such appointment was as administratrix and not as guardian. The counsel for Harrison says in his brief that he is disposed to concede this proposition. It is plainly true. Her right or duty to account, as guardian, did not affect the title to the property upon the death of the ward. That title became vested in the administrator and administratrix upon their appointment. 1 Williams on Executors, (6th Am. ed.) 696. The plaintiff herein, as coadministrator, had the same legal title to the assets that she had. The advantage of possession was with her. But on the death of the administratrix the complainant remained the sole surviving administrator, and in him was vested the exclusive title and the right to the immediate possession of the ...


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