McLean v. Meek/Opinion of the Court
Hill and McLean sued James L. Meek, administrator of Joseph Meek, by bill in equity, in the circuit court of the United States for the southern district of Mississippi, for upwards of $20,000, alleged to be due the complainants by Joseph Meek at the time of his death.
He died in February, 1838, and was then domiciled in Davidson county, Tennessee. In September, 1838, Jesse Meek was appointed administrator of Joseph Meek's estate in said county. In November, 1840, the estate was alleged to be insolvent, and a bill was filed in the chancery court exercising jurisdiction in Davidson county, by Jesse Meek, the then administrator, and John Munn and his wife, who was a daughter of Joseph Meek, setting forth the insolvency, and praying for judicial administration of the assets among the creditors of the deceased, according to the statute of that State. To this bill the creditors were the proper defendants, and entitled to share the assets ratably. The other children of the deceased were also made defendants, and acted by their guardian.
Nathaniel and James Dick and Co. presented a claim for allowance of $21,445, and which was allowed by the chancery court in May 1846, and about $2,000 of it was afterwards paid out of the assets distributed; and for the balance remaining unpaid the present bill was filed, seeking a discovery of assets from the administrator in Mississippi, and payment therefrom.
The evidence relied on to sustain the suit and establish the demand was a copy of the record from the chancery court of Tennessee; and the principal question is, whether this proceeding bound the administrator or affected the assets in Mississippi.
There is one circumstance worthy of explanation. Jesse Meek administered in Mississippi, 30th February, 1838, on Joseph Meek's estate, but his letters were revoked in 1841, and John Munn was appointed administrator de bonis non, and afterwards James L. Meek was appointed, and superseded Munn; and James L. is here sued.
During the contest in the Tennessee court, when Dick and Co. established their demand, Jesse Meek was the Tennessee administrator, and Munn and Joseph L. Meek were successively administrators in Mississippi.
These administrations were independent of each other; the respective administrators represented Meek, the deceased intestate, by an authority coextensive only with the State where the letters of adminstration were granted, and had jurisdiction of the assets there, and were accountable to creditors and distributees according to the laws of the State granting the authority. No connection existed, or could exist, between them, and therefore a recovery against the one in Tennessee was no evidence against the other in Mississippi. Stacy v. Thrasher, 6 How. 44, lays down this distinct rule.
But if there was evidence of the demand, as alleged, and which we do not doubt exists, yet it is only evidence of an open account existing at the time of Joseph Meek's death, in 1838, and therefore subject to be barred by the act of limitations in Mississippi barring such claims, if suit is not brought to enforce them within three years next after the cause of action accrued. The answers of the administrator and heirs of Joseph Meek rely on the act of limitations as a bar to relief, and which bar would necessarily be allowed, if the cause was remanded, so that further evidence might be introduced. As it now stands, however, there is no evidence of the demand, and therefore we order that the decree of the circuit court shall be affirmed.