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DE BEARN v. SAFE DEPOSIT AND TRUST COMPANY BALTIMORE

April 6, 1914

DE BEARN
v.
SAFE DEPOSIT AND TRUST COMPANY OF BALTIMORE



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney; Lurton took no part in the decision of this case.

Author: White

[ 233 U.S. Page 26]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

In this case the court below sustained a demurrer to the complaint and this direct appeal was then taken on the theory that rights under the Constitution of the United States were involved. To determine whether there is a constitutional question, and, if so, to decide it, requires a statement of the averments of the complaint.

The complainant was the appellant and the defendants were the Safe Deposit & Trust Company of Baltimore, American Bonding Company of Baltimore, Alexander Brown & Sons, a commercial firm established in Baltimore and Theodore P. Weis, sheriff of the city of Baltimore. It was alleged that the complainant was the owner of coupon bonds of $29,000 issued by the New York Central & Hudson River R.R. and of $156,000 of bonds issued by the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway Company,

[ 233 U.S. Page 27]

     a specified amount of the bonds being registered in the name of a minor son and a stated amount being likewise registered in the name of a minor daughter of the complainant. It was averred that the bonds were in a safe deposit box in the vault of the defendant Safe Deposit & Trust Company, "where your orator, by means of a guardianship proceeding in the Orphans' Court of Baltimore which has since been declared illegal and void, was induced to place said bonds, said box being rented and standing recorded on the books of the said safe deposit Company in the joint names of Messrs. Alexander Brown & Sons and the American Bonding Company; that for the purposes of such guardianship proceeding your orator had in the year 1908 been required by the said American Bonding Company as surety on your orator's bond in said guardianship proceeding to agree not to remove the said bonds without the consent of said surety; and had further been required by said surety to consent that said surety and said Alexander Brown and Sons should only have joint access to said bonds and the same for the sole purpose of enabling said Alexander Brown and Sons to remove interest warrants from said bonds during the said guardianship and forward the same for payment to the City of New York as they became due.

"That in December 1909, the Court of Appeals of Maryland by a decree founded upon personal jurisdiction over all the parties to said guardianship proceeding declared the said guardianship and certain releases given by your orator in connection therewith null and void; that by said adjudication, the said suretyship of the said American Bonding Company of Baltimore was extinguished and that neither said Bonding Company nor said Alexander Brown and Sons have since said adjudication had any right to access to or other right or control whatsoever in, over or as to said safe deposit box and the contents of the same and said adjudication has established the

[ 233 U.S. Page 28]

     lack of jurisdiction over said property on the part of the Courts which had so undertaken to deal therewith.

"That your orator is entitled to the immediate possession of the said evidences of debt, to wit: registered bonds for all purposes and is in urgent need of them for the purpose of causing said debts to be transferred upon the books of the debtor corporations in the State of New York to the name of your orator or at his option of surrendering said bonds to the said corporations respectively in exchange for the issuance to your orator of other evidences of said debts, to take the place of said bonds now so registered, as he would have done in the year 1908 but for the illegal guardianship proceeding already referred to.

"That your orator has been since the month of October 1908, and still is the true lessee of said box the rental of which has been paid with funds furnished by your orator and as above shown at all times owner of the contents thereof; that said Alexander Brown and Sons have not been and are not in any manner responsible either for said box or for the custody of the contents of the same or in or for any matter growing out of the arrangement under which said box was rented and said registered bonds placed therein; that as to the American Bonding Company, it has had no connection with or interest in the rental of said box or the custody of the contents of the same except as surety of your orator upon his bond as guardian, which said suretyship was undertaken in the aforesaid illegal guardianship proceeding which has been declared void and set aside."

After reciting the provisions of a memorandum agreement between the plaintiff and defendant Brown & Sons and the Bonding Company by which the joint access to the box in which the bonds were deposited should be had for the purpose of cutting the coupons from the bonds and turning them over to the ...


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