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EVERETT V. EVERETT, 215 U. S. 203 (1909)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Everett v. Everett, 215 U.S. 203 (1909)

Everett v. Everett

No. 1

Argued October 22, 1909

Decided November 29, 1909

215 U.S. 203


Where the fundamental fact in issue in a suit by a wife for separate maintenance is whether there was a marriage, and the court having jurisdiction finds that the wife's petition should not be granted, but should be dismissed, the courts of another state must, under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, regard such decree as determining that there was no marriage, even though the husband may have asserted other defenses; nor can the wife, in a suit depending solely on the issue of whether there was a marriage, prove by oral chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 215 U. S. 204

testimony, in the absence of a bill of exceptions, that the decree may have rested on any of the other defenses asserted by the husband.

180 N.Y. 452 affirmed.

This is a writ of error to review a judgment of the supreme court of New York upon the ground that the final order of that court, entered pursuant to the mandate of the Court of Appeals of New York in this case, failed to give full faith and credit to the judicial proceedings in a certain action determined in the Probate Court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

The facts out of which this question arose may be thus summarized:

The present plaintiff in error, Georgia L. Everett, on or about April 1st, 1897, brought this action in the Supreme Court of Kings County, New York, against the defendant in error, Edward Everett, alleging that she and the defendant were lawfully intermarried in that county before a justice of the peace on the 30th day of October, 1884; that, under the false pretense that that marriage would never be recognized by his family, and that a ceremonial marriage would have to take place before a minister of the Gospel, the defendant, on or about December 17th, 1887, fraudulently instituted an action in the same court to have the above marriage annulled; that the plaintiff had a valid defense to such action, but, in consequence of fraudulent representations to her by the defendant, she made no defense therein, by reason whereof a decree was rendered on or about April 9th, 1888, declaring that the alleged marriage between her and the defendant was null and void, and that they had lived and cohabited together as husband and wife from the date of said marriage down to and including June 1st, 1891.

The specific relief asked in this case, brought in 1897, was a judgment that the decree of April 9th, 1888, in the case brought in 1887, be vacated and set aside, and that it be adjudged that the marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant was binding and in full force and effect.

The defendant, by answer, controverted all the material chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 215 U. S. 205

facts alleged in this case relating to the obtaining of the above decree of April 9th, 1888. He set forth various grounds of defense, but none of them raised any question of a federal nature. He made, however a separate special defense herein, based upon the record of certain proceedings in the Probate Court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

The allegations of the answer as to those proceedings were substantially these: that, on or about February 21st, 1895, the present plaintiff, Georgia L. Everett, brought an action against him in the Probate Court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, claiming to be, as was the defendant, a resident of Boston, and also claiming to be his lawful wife; that he had failed without just cause to furnish suitable support for her and had deserted her; that she was living apart from him for justifiable cause; that she prayed that such order be made for her support as the court deemed expedient; that process was duly issued out of the said court and served on this defendant, and he duly appeared; that, on or about March 21st, 1895, on motion of this defendant, the court ordered the plaintiff to file in that case full specifications as to how, when, and where she became the lawful wife of the defendant; that, pursuant to that order, on or about April 1st, 1895, the plaintiff filed in the said Probate Court her specifications, wherein she stated that she was married to this defendant on or about October 31st, 1884, in Brooklyn, New York, by John Courtney, Esq., Justice of the Peace, and, further, that a legal marriage according to the laws of the State of New York was entered into in that state between her and this defendant on or about April 15th, 1888, by mutual consent, consummation, acknowledgment, and cohabitation in that state, and that such consent, acknowledgment, and cohabitation continued in New York, and also in Massachusetts, from April 15th, 1888, to May 30th, 1891, at which time, she alleged, this defendant deserted her. She also stated in her petition in the Probate Court

"that her marriage with this defendant was still -- to wit, on April 1 1895 -- of legal force and effect. Yet defendant deserted her on or

Page 215 U. S. 206

about May 30, 1891, and had contributed nothing to her support since that time."

"Thereafter," the answer alleged,

"this defendant, according to the course and practice of the said court, duly answered the said petition and admitted that he and the said petitioner were married on or about October 30, 1884, in Brooklyn, by John Courtney, Esq., Justice of the Peace, and alleged that the said marriage had been duly adjudged to be null and void by this court by its judgment rendered April 9th, 1888, in the suit brought by this defendant against the plaintiff herein for the purpose of having the said marriage annulled, which is the same judgment hereinbefore in this answer, and also in the amended complaint herein, referred to. In respect to the supposed marriage between this defendant and the plaintiff herein -- alleged in the said specifications filed by the plaintiff in her said suit in the Probate Court to have taken place on or about April 15, 1888 -- this defendant answered that, at the time of the said marriage, performed on or about October 30, 1884, by John Courtney, Justice of the Peace, and both at the time of the alleged marriage, stated in the specifications filed by the said plaintiff to have taken place April 15, 1888, and at all other times subsequent to, as well as long before, October 30, 1884, the said plaintiff was the wife of one William G. Morrison, and that, by reason thereof, the said supposed marriages between this defendant and the said plaintiff, by her alleged, were, and each of them was, null and void. Thereafter such proceedings were duly had that the said cause came on to be heard and was heard by the said Probate Court upon the issues raised as aforesaid upon this defendant's said answer to the plaintiff's said petition, and the said court found the said issues for this defendant, and thereupon made its decree March 25, 1897, whereby the court found and decided that the prayer of the plaintiff's said petition should not be granted, and adjudged that the said petition be dismissed, and that the said judgment remains of record, and in full force and effect."

In her reply, the plaintiff, admitting that she had instituted chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 215 U. S. 207

in the Massachusetts court the action abov