143 U.S. 224 (1892), Hammond v. Hopkins

Citation:143 U.S. 224, 12 S.Ct. 418, 36 L.Ed. 134
Party Name:HAMMOND et al. v. HOPKINS et al.
Case Date:February 29, 1892
Court:United States Supreme Court

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143 U.S. 224 (1892)

12 S.Ct. 418, 36 L.Ed. 134

HAMMOND et al.


HOPKINS et al.

United States Supreme Court.

February 29, 1892

Appeal from the supreme court of the District of Columbia. Reversed.


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This was a bill filed in the supreme court of the District of Columbia, April 8, 1884, by William B. Hopkins; Anna B. Hopkins, by her next friend, William B. Hopkins; Sarah E. Hopkins, by her next friend, Elizabeth A. Early; Elizabeth A. Early; Mary V. Wailes; Alice C. Hall; and Ida M. Stone,--against Bertha Hopkins; Bertha Hopkins, administratrix of John S. Hopkins; Esther E. Hopkins; Elizabeth B. Luttrell; Ira W. Hopkins; Mary E. Hopkins; Bettie Davenport; Samuel C. Raub, trustee for Bettie Davenport, Samuel C. Raub, executor of George N. Hopkins; L. Freddie Hopkins, administratrix; Thomas J. Luttrell, administrator of George W. Hopkins; and Thomas J. Luttrell, executor of Cornelius Hopkins,--alleging that prior to and on the 23d day of November, in the year 1858, John Hopkins and George W. Hopkins were seised and possessed in fee-simple each of an undivided moiety, as tenants in common, of squares numbered 94, 95, 96, 110, 111, in the city of Washington, as laid down on the public plats of the city; and that John Hopkins, on that day, executed his last will and testament, a copy of which was annexed. That John Hopkins died November 27, 1858, leaving his children and heirs at law, Isaac H. Hopkins; Elizabeth A. Early, born Hopkins; George Washington Hopkins; William M. S. Hopkins; Emeline V. Lilburn, born Hopkins; Mary V. Wailes, born Hopkins; Alice C. Hall, born Hopkins; John S. Hopkins; and Levin Hopkins. That Isaac H. and Levin Hopkins have since died intestate, and without issue. That George Washington Hopkins died in the month of July, 1870, leaving as his only children and heirs at law, William B. Hopkins, then 11 years of age, and Anna B. Hopkins, then 2 years of age. That the said Emeline V. Lilburn conveyed

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on April 7, 1884, all her right and title, absolutely and unconditionally, in said estate, to her daughter Ida M. Stone; and that John S. Hopkins died May 7, 1883, leaving as his only child and heir at law the defendant Bertha Hopkins.

That the said George W. and John S. Hopkins accepted the said trust, entered into possession of said premises, carried on the business of brick-making for several years, collected the rents and profits of said estate, and, as is charged upon information and belief, sold at various times prior to May 1, 1864, portions of said property, for which they received certain moneys, the particulars of which complainants propose to prove before the auditor.

It was then charged that it had lately come to the knowledge of the plaintiffs that 'at this period' the trustees meditated a fraudulent scheme to obtain the entire estate in their own right, 'freed and discharged of the trusts under which they held it,' and that, 'in pursuance of this scheme of fraud,' John S. Hopkins persuaded his brother William M. S. to convey to him his share in his father's estate, (William being of dissipated habits, and mentally enfeebled by alcoholic excesses,) by deed dated June 20, 1860, and recorded July 7, 1860, and under his command and direction to sign the name of his wife, Sarah E. Hopkins, thereto; and by means of fraud obtained the certificate of acknowledgment to said deed of two justices of the peace. Ignorance of these facts was averred, the circumstances of their discovery to be thereafter stated at length.

It was further stated that William M. S. Hopkins, on January 28, 1864, conveyed all his right, title, and interest in his father's estate to one Christopher Ingle, in trust for the benefit of his wife, Sarah E. Hopkins, which fact had lately come to the knowledge of the complainants, under circumstances that would thereinafter be set forth at length.

The bill then alleged that in pursuance of the fraudulent scheme before mentioned the trustees advertised the property for sale at public auction on May 10, 1864, a copy of which advertisement was annexed. That they fraudulently procured James Chapman to attend the sale, and bid on their behalf as individuals, and that Chapman became the purchaser for them

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of squares 95, 96, and 111; of lot 1, square 94; and lots 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 38, and 39, in square 110; and that on May 20, 1864, George W. and John S. Hopkins conveyed the property to Chapman for the consideration of $1, and Chapman reconveyed, under the same date, square 111, to George W. Hopkins, as an individual, for the alleged consideration of $9,093.42, and the other property to George W. and John S. Hopkins, as individuals, for the alleged consideration of $10,842.24; all the conveyances being recorded November 16, 1864. Plaintiffs averred that the purchases by Chapman were for the benefit of the trustees as individuals without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiffs.

It was further charged that 'the said trustees, in furtherance of their said fraudulent scheme to possess themselves individually of the said trust-estate and brick business, and in order to give a semblance of right to their said fraudulent conduct, [12 S.Ct. 420] did, after a lapse of nearly seven years from the death of their testator, file in the orphans' court of said district 'a first and final account' of what purported to be an 'account of the personal estate of John Hopkins, deceased, by George W. and John S. Hopkins, executors,' alleged to consist of the personal estate of said decedent, of the profits made out of the brick business, and the value of the deceased's interest in the firm of John and George W. Hopkins, showing that there was for distribution the sum of $22,131.46; and these plaintiffs have caused diligent search to be made among the records of said orphans' court for the vouchers and papers on which said account was based, but have not been able to find the same, so as to discover in what manner the item of $14,952.66--the proceeds of sale of the half interest--was made up, a certified copy of which account is herewith filed and prayed to be read as a part of this bill; and the said trustees, without explaining the nature of their trust, or their fraudulent conduct in regard to said sales, and without actual notice to or any personal knowledge of any of these plaintiffs, did obtain an order of said court directing a distribution of the sum of $2,667.60 to each of the children then living of said John Hopkins as heirs at law.' The payment of the distributive shares under the order

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(except that allotted to William M. S. Hopkins) was admitted, but the jurisdiction of the court denied, and ignorance of the alleged fraud set up in excuse of any estoppel arising from the acceptance of and receipts for their shares.

Certain sales to bona fide purchasers prior to November 16, 1864, and prior to December 22, 1875, were referred to, and the receipts of moneys therefor. It was then alleged 'that the said trustee, George W. Hopkins, trustee as aforesaid, died intestate on the 22d December, 1875, leaving as his only children and heirs at law George N. Hopkins; said defendants, Elizabeth B. Luttrell, born Hopkins; Ira W. Hopkins; Mary E. Hopkins; and Cornelius Hopkins. That letters of administration on his estate were granted to said defendants L. Freddie Hopkins and Thomas J. Luttrell. That said George N. Hopkins has since died, on November 18, 1881, having first devised, by way of executory devise, all his real estate to said defendant Samuel C. Raub, as trustee for said defendant Bettie Davenport, her heirs and assigns. That the contingency on which said devise was limited has happened, and the equitable estate in fee-simple is vested in her, as all of which will morefully appear by reference to said will, hereto annexed, and prayed to be read as part of this bill. That letters of administration on said George N. Hopkins' estate were granted to said defendant Samuel C. Raub. That said Cornelius Hopkins has since died, on July 17, 1883, having devised his entire estate as follows: One-half to said defendant Mary E. Hopkins, one-quarter to said defendant Elizabeth B. Luttrell, and one-quarter to said defendant Ira W. Hopkins. That to said Thomas J. Luttrell letters testamentary have been granted as executor of said Cornelius Hopkins.'

Partition proceedings between John S. Hopkins and the heirs of George W. Hopkins, and between the heirs of George W. Hopkins, were then set up, and the sale by John S. Hopkins of lots allotted to him to bona fide purchasers, as also by the heirs of George W. Hopkins. It was further averred that John S. Hopkins died May 7, 1883, leaving, him surviving, his widow, Esther E. Hopkins, and Bertha Hopkins, his only child and heir at law, and that letters of administration

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on his estate had been granted to Bertha Hopkins as sole administratrix.

The bill then stated:

'That these plaintiffs do severally aver that they have within the last past few weeks discovered for the first time the following circumstances in the manner herein set out, namely, that when the said John S. Hopkins, trustee, induced his brother and cestui que trust, William M. S. Hopkins, to convey to him his estate, as alleged in paragraph eight, the said John S. Hopkins charged the said William that he should not tell his wife, the said plaintiff Sarah E. Hopkins, of his having made such deed, and threatened him that if he did his said wife would leave him, and return to Baltimore, to her father. That numberless times from that time to the date of his death the said John S. Hopkins inquired of the said William if he ever informed his wife of the conveyance to him, and on every occasion urged him not to do so. That the said...

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