Pufahl v. Parks Estate, No. 18

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtROBERTS
Citation299 U.S. 217,57 S.Ct. 151,81 L.Ed. 133
PartiesPUFAHL v. PARKS' ESTATE
Decision Date07 December 1936
Docket NumberNo. 18

299 U.S. 217
57 S.Ct. 151
81 L.Ed. 133
PUFAHL

v.

PARKS' ESTATE.

No. 18.
Argued Oct. 15, 1936.
Decided Dec. 7, 1936.

Messrs.

Page 218

George P. Barse, of Washington, D.C., and Otis F. Glenn, of Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 218-220 intentionally omitted]

Page 221

Mr. Franz W. Castle, of Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case we are concerned with the bearing of state law upon the enforcement of an assessment against the estate of a stockholder of a national bank.

Elvira J. Parks died March 20, 1928, owning twelve shares of the capital stock of the Austin National Bank of Chicago. May 17, 1928, the probate court of Cook county, Illinois, granted letters testamentary to the executors named in her will, who filed an inventory and supplemental inventory in the probate court within one year of the date of the letters. March 30, 1931, the Comptroller of the Currency declared the bank insolvent, closed it, and appointed the petitioner receiver, and May 21, 1931, assessed all stockholders, including the executors of Elvira J. Parks, 100 per cent. of the par value of their stock. The executors refused to honor the receiver's demand for payment, and on September 1, 1933, he filed his claim in the probate court for $1,327.17, the amount of the assessment with interest to the date of filing. January 13, 1934, the court disallowed the claim. The receiver appealed to the circuit court where the case was tried de novo. That court, applying a state statute, disallowed the claim as against undistributed assets in the hands of executors inventoried within one year from the date of the grant of letters because the claim did not accrue and was not presented to the probate court within that period, but allowed it as to assets not inventoried within the year. (From a stipulation filed in this court it appears that there are in the executors' possession inventoried assets in excess of the amount of petitioner's claim; that the estate is solvent; and that

Page 222

there are no assets not inventoried within one year from the granting of the letters, or discovered after the expiration of that period.) The Appellate Court of the First District of Illinois affirmed the judgment. A certificate of importance, requisite for a review by the Supreme Court of the state, was refused. Certiorari was granted to resolve a conflict respecting the construction of relevant federal statutes.

U.S.C.Tit. 12, § 64 (12 U.S.C.A. § 64) is in part:

'The stockholders of every national banking association shall be held individually responsible for all contracts, debts, and engagements of such association, each to the amount of his stock therein, at the par value thereof in addition to the amount invested in such stock.'

Section 66 (12 U.S.C.A. § 66) is:

'Persons holding stock as executors, administrators, guardians, or trustees, shall not be personally subject to any liabilities as stockholders; but the estates and funds in their hands shall be liable in like manner and to the same extent as the testator, intestate, ward, or person interested in such trust funds would be, if living and competent to act and hold the stock in his own name.'

The petitioner asserts these sections give his claim a quality so superior to that of other contingent claims against a decedent's estate that it must be recognized by state tribunals without regard to limitations upon allowance imposed by state laws.

The liability is imposed by the statute.1 The original subscriber and likewise an immediate or remote vendee of the shares assumes a status—that of stockholder. The assumption of this status involves whatever conditions or burdens the federal statutes have imposed as incident to the holding of national bank shares. The contingent

Page 223

obligation to pay an assessment is rendered absolute by the Comptroller's action in ordering one; whether that action be taken during the stockholder's life or after his death. From the moment of the Comptroller's order for assessment the bank's receiver has a claim which would support an action of debt at common law against a living stockholder, or the executor of a deceased stockholder. And if assessment be made after the estate of a deceased stockholder has been distributed the receiver may proceed to recover the amount from distributees or heirs, if, and to the extent, they are liable for debts of the estate under the law of the domicile.2

The first clause of section 66 obviously was intended to exempt from personal liability the executor, administrator, guardian or trustee who holds stock as such fiduciary whether standing of record in his name or in that of the decedent, ward, or settlor. The second declares that the estate and funds in the hands of an executor shall be liable as the testator would have been if living, competent, and a stockholder of record. The question is whether this clause adds anything to the obligation of the decedent which is cast upon his estate by operation of law irrespective of section 66.3 Does it impose upon the estate a liability differing from that which the law fastens upon the personal representative to discharge out of the estate, debts accruing before or after the decedent's death? We think that, as the first clause exonerates the fiduciary from personal liability, the second negatives the inference that the exoneration is to extend to the decedent's estate. This was the view taken by Judge Shipman in Davis v. Weed, 7 Fed.Cas. p. 186, No. 3,658, 44 Conn. 569:

'I do not think that section 5152 (12 U.S.C.A. § 66) was intended to affect the liability for assessments of estates in process

Page 224

of settlement. The principal object of the section was to prevent a personal liability from running against executors, administrators, trustees or guardians, who had purchased as trustees, or to whom had been transferred in their names, as trustees national bank stocks for the benefit of the trust estates. Having by such purchase voluntarily entered into a contingent liability for assessments, it might be claimed that a judgment de bonis propriis could be rendered against them. The main object of the section was to prevent personal judgments being rendered against such persons in whom the stock stood on the books of the bank, as trustees.'

The statute evidences no intent to prefer the assessment over other claims against the estate, or to exempt the receiver from the pursuit of the remedy prescribed by the local law for collection of claims of the same sort.

Section 64 gives the receiver no lien for the amount of the assessment against the property of a living stockholder. The claim may only be recovered by suit or action. The judgment obtained is collectible like any other; it has no preference in distribution if the debtor's property be in the hands of a receiver, if he has made an assignment for the benefit of creditors, or become bankrupt. Section 66 makes a deceased stockholder's estate liable in like manner, and to the same extent, as he would have been if living. As no lien is created against the property of a living stockholder by section 64 section 66 imposes none against his estate.4

The statute creates an unsecured and unpreferred claim against a decedent's estate. Where the assessment has

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been made in the decedent's lifetime an accrued and provable debt exists against his estate; if made after his death a claim against the funds and assets of the estate accrues as of the date of assessment.

Although the petitioner's demand is based upon a federal statute, he may enforce it only in conformity to the law of the forum governing the recovery of debts of like nature. He might have sued in a federal court. Notwithstanding the statute providing that the citizenship of a national bank, for purposes of federal jurisdiction, shall be as if it were a corporation of the state where it has its place of business, the receiver is an officer of the United States and, as such, entitled to sue for assessments in a federal court, irrespective of the citizenship of the parties or the amount in controversy.5 If he elect so to do, R.S. § 721 (28 U.S.C. § 725 (28 U.S.C.A. § 725)) governs the trial:

'The laws of the several States, except where the Constitution, treaties, or statutes of the United States otherwise require or provide, shall be regarded as rules of decision in trials at common law, in the courts of the United States, in cases where they apply'.

In such a proceeding the state statute of limitations will be applied;6 and it seems that the local substantive law governing property rights in stock will be observed.7 Nor does the principle that the jurisdiction of courts of the United States cannot be defeated by a state's laws limiting redress of its own citizens to certain tribunals8

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create such inconsistency or conflict as to require the overriding of the law of the state with respect to distribution of the estate of a decedent. Where, as here, a res has come into the possession and under the control of a state court, one having a right to go into the federal court, either by reason of diversity of citizenship, or because he is a federal officer, cannot obtain a judgment or decree entitling him to interfere with the administration of the res by the court having its possession. While he may not be denied his right to prosecute an action to judgment or a suit to final decree in the federal court, such judgment or decree can do no more than adjudicate the validity and amount of his claim. The marshaling of that claim with others, its priority, if any, in distribution, and all similar questions, are for the...

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100 practice notes
  • Baker v. F & F INVESTMENT COMPANY, No. 72-2036.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • December 6, 1973
    ...did not file their claims with the liquidators within the time fixed. The case is therefore much like Pufahl v. Estate of Parks, 299 U.S. 217, 57 S.Ct. 151, 81 L.Ed. 133. That was a suit by the Comptroller of the Currency against the estate of a stockholder of a national bank to enforce a f......
  • Leonia Amusement Corp. v. Loew's Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • December 29, 1953
    ...280; Chattanooga Foundry & Pipe Works v. City of Atlanta, 1906, 203 U.S. 390, 27 S. Ct. 65, 51 L.Ed. 241; Pufahl v. Estate of Parks, 1936, 299 U.S. 217, 57 S.Ct. 151, 81 L.Ed. 133; Russell v. Todd, supra; Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 1946, 327 U.S. 392, 66 S.Ct. 582, 90 L.Ed. 15 In Momand v. Twen......
  • Matthewman v. Akahane, Civ. No. 77-0406.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
    • November 15, 1983
    ...in cases where they apply.3 574 F. Supp. 1516 See, Bauserman v. Blunt, 147 U.S. 647, 13 S.Ct. 466, 37 L.Ed. 316 (1893); Pufahl v. Parks, 299 U.S. 217, 225, 57 S.Ct. 151, 156, 81 L.Ed. 133, 139 (1936); O'Sullivan v. Felix, 233 U.S. 318, 34 S.Ct. 596, 58 L.Ed. 980 (1914).4 Later cases have ma......
  • Chesley v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 401
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • February 25, 1991
    ...Princess Lida of Thurn & Taxis v. Thompson, 305 U.S. 456, 466-68, 59 S.Ct. 275, 280-81, 83 L.Ed. 285 (1939); Pufahl v. Park's Estate, 299 U.S. 217, 226 (1936); United States v. Bank of N.Y. & Trust Co., 296 U.S. 463, 477-79, 56 S.Ct. 343, 347-48, 80 L.Ed. 331 (1936) (principle applies whene......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
100 cases
  • Baker v. F & F INVESTMENT COMPANY, No. 72-2036.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • December 6, 1973
    ...did not file their claims with the liquidators within the time fixed. The case is therefore much like Pufahl v. Estate of Parks, 299 U.S. 217, 57 S.Ct. 151, 81 L.Ed. 133. That was a suit by the Comptroller of the Currency against the estate of a stockholder of a national bank to enforce a f......
  • Leonia Amusement Corp. v. Loew's Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • December 29, 1953
    ...280; Chattanooga Foundry & Pipe Works v. City of Atlanta, 1906, 203 U.S. 390, 27 S. Ct. 65, 51 L.Ed. 241; Pufahl v. Estate of Parks, 1936, 299 U.S. 217, 57 S.Ct. 151, 81 L.Ed. 133; Russell v. Todd, supra; Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 1946, 327 U.S. 392, 66 S.Ct. 582, 90 L.Ed. 15 In Momand v. Twen......
  • Matthewman v. Akahane, Civ. No. 77-0406.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
    • November 15, 1983
    ...in cases where they apply.3 574 F. Supp. 1516 See, Bauserman v. Blunt, 147 U.S. 647, 13 S.Ct. 466, 37 L.Ed. 316 (1893); Pufahl v. Parks, 299 U.S. 217, 225, 57 S.Ct. 151, 156, 81 L.Ed. 133, 139 (1936); O'Sullivan v. Felix, 233 U.S. 318, 34 S.Ct. 596, 58 L.Ed. 980 (1914).4 Later cases have ma......
  • Chesley v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 401
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • February 25, 1991
    ...Princess Lida of Thurn & Taxis v. Thompson, 305 U.S. 456, 466-68, 59 S.Ct. 275, 280-81, 83 L.Ed. 285 (1939); Pufahl v. Park's Estate, 299 U.S. 217, 226 (1936); United States v. Bank of N.Y. & Trust Co., 296 U.S. 463, 477-79, 56 S.Ct. 343, 347-48, 80 L.Ed. 331 (1936) (principle applies whene......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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