residents of New Jersey and continued to reside in that State during their entire married life. The marriage, however, was performed in Elkton, Maryland. The husband died on March 10, 1946. At the time of his death the parties were living together.
The plaintiff filed an application as the widow of Charles Richard Snyder for an allowance under the statute heretofore mentioned. The Bureau of Naval Personnel, after an investigation, concluded that the divorce obtained by the plaintiff in Mexico from her first husband was not entitled to recognition and that, therefore, her subsequent marriage to the deceased was invalid. On this basis, the Navy Department declined to approve the plaintiff's claim for an allowance equal to sic months' pay of the deceased, but paid his sum to his sister. Whether the plaintiff is entitled to the widow's allowance depends on whether her marriage to the deceased was valid or even if it was invalid, whether it is subject to a collateral attack by an administrative agency.
The parties entered into the married state by a ceremony performed by a minister. The inference is clear that they considered themselves free to marry. They lived together as husband and wife until the husband's death, and no doubt deemed themselves lawfully married. The deceased apparently never though there was any infirmity in his marriage. He named his wife as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy under the National Life Insurance Act and also designated her as the proper recipient of a widow's allowance. He evidently went to his death without questioning or doubting the validity of his marriage.
The marriage was celebrated in Maryland, although both before and after the marriage ceremony the parties were residents of the State of New Jersey. The preliminary question to be determined is whether the law of New Jersey or the law of Maryland is applicable. It is well settled that the law of the place where a marriage is celebrated governs the validity of the marriage. Loughran v. Loughran, 292 U.S. 216, 54 S. Ct. 684, 78 L. Ed. 1219; Rhodes v. Rhodes, 68 App.D.C. 313, 96 F.2d 715; United States ex rel. Modianos v. Tuttle, D.C., 12 F.2d 927; Franzen v. E. I. DuPont De Nemours & Co., 3 Cir., 146 F.2d 837; Hitchens v. Hitchens, D.C., 47 F.Supp. 73; Fensterwald v. -- burk, 129 Md. 131, 98 A. 358, 3 A.L.R. 1562; Beale, The Conflict of Laws, Vol. II, pp. 667-669; Restatement, Conflict of Laws, pp. 185-187. This doctrine applies even if the parties are domiciled in a State different from that in which the marriage is celebrated, Hitchens v. Hitchens, supra; Fensterwald v. Burk, supra. The only exception to the general principle comprizes incestuous and polygamous marriages, which are abhorrent to the general standards of morality. Consequently, in the instant case, the validity of the marriage must be determined by the law of Maryland rather than by the law of New Jersey.
The Code of Maryland, Article 62, Section 16, provides, in part, as follows: 'The circuit court for the several counties and the superior court of Baltimore City may, upon petition of either of the parties, inquire into, hear and determine and the circuit court for the several counties and the criminal court of Baltimore, on indictment, may inquire into, hear and determine the validity of any marriage and may declare any marriage contrary to the table in this article, or any second marriage, the first subsisting, null and void; * * * .'
In Harrison v. State, 22 Md. 468, 490, 85 Am.Dec. 658, the Court held that a marriage within the prohibited degrees was not void but voidable.
The statute just quoted was construed and applied in Ridgely v. Ridgely, 79 Md. 298, 29 A. 597, 25 L.R.A. 800. In that case a woman, who had resided in Maryland with her husband, went to South Dakota and obtained an absolute divorce in that State. Thereafter she returned to Maryland and contracted another marriage. Her first husband brought a suit in equity to annul the second marriage on the ground that the divorce procured in South Dakota was void and that, therefore, the wife was not competent to contract a second marriage. The court held that the second marriage might be annulled only in an action brought by one of the parties thereto. The conclusion seems to follow that under the law of Maryland, a marriage contracted by a person who is not free to marry is voidable, and may be annulled only by a decree of a court rendered in an action brought by one of the parties to the marriage.
Since in this instance no action to annul the marriage was ever brought by either party during the husband's lifetime, under the law of Maryland the marriage is not subject to attack collaterally. It follows, hence, that the plaintiff must be deemed to be the widow of the deceased and, as such, entitled to a widow's allowance.
In this connection it may be observed that to brand a marriage as invalid is a solemn matter. Such an adjudication may ordinarily be made only by a court of competent jurisdiction after a trial at which all interested parties have an opportunity to be heard. It is at best questionable whether an administrative agency, such as the Veterans' Administration, the Navy Department, or the War Department, has any authority to hold a marriage invalid in an ex parte manner on the basis of its own investigation. As a matter of public policy, it does not appear appropriate that an administrative agency of the Government should delve and dig into family skeletons in an endeavor to upset a marriage openly celebrated and apparently valid on its face, and which was deemed lawful by the parties thereto in their lifetime. The Congress did not intend that the Navy Department should pursue such a course, as is evidenced by the fact that the statute expressly requires payment of the widow's allowance to be made 'immediately' upon official notification of the death of the deceased. Obviously, the Congress did not intend to vest in the Navy Department any authority to make exhuastive administrative investigations for the purpose of passing on the validity of a marriage apparently valid on its face.
The Court will accordingly render judgment directing the Paymaster General of the Navy to pay to the plaintiff the statutory widow's allowance.
The complaint prays for relief in the nature of a mandamus. This relief is inappropriate, in the view of the fact that the act required to be performed is not purely ministerial. The plaintiff is entitled, however, to whatever judgment the evidence warrants, irrespective of whether it is the precise relief prayed for in the complaint.
4 Under Section 10(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act, any applicable (i.e. suitable) form of relief may be granted. The statute expressly suggests a mandatory injunction as a possible form of relief. Accordingly, the judgment will take the form of a mandatory injunction directing the necessary payment. It is sufficient that the Paymaster General of the Navy be the sole defendant, as in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court in Williams v. Fanning, 68 S. Ct. 188, the Secretary of the Navy is not an indispensable party
Judgment for the plaintiff granting a mandatory injunction directing the defendant to pay to the plaintiff an amount equal to six months' pay at the rate received by the deceased at the time of his death.
Submit proposed findings and conclusions of law and proposed form of judgment.