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SANTOVINCENZO V. EGAN, 284 U. S. 30 (1931)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Santovincenzo v. Egan, 284 U.S. 30 (1931)

Santovincenzo v. Egan

No. 31

Argued October 22, 1931

Decided November 23, 1931

284 U.S. 30


1. Case from a state court, involving the construction and application of treaties, held reviewable by certiorari. P. 284 U. S. 35, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 284 U. S. 31

2. Article XVII of the Consular Convention of 1878 with Italy provides that

"The respective Consuls General . . . shall enjoy in both countries all the rights, prerogatives, immunities, and privileges which are or may hereafter be granted to the officers of the same grade, of the most favoured nation."

Article VI of the Treaty of 1856 with Persia (terminated in 1928) declares:

"In case of a citizen or subject of either of the contracting parties dying within the territories of the other, his effects shall be delivered up integrally to the family or partners in business of the deceased, and in case he has no relations or partners, his effects in either country shall be delivered up to the consul or agent of the nation of which the deceased was a subject or citizen, so that he may dispose of them in accordance with the laws of his country."

An Italian subject, domiciled in New York, died there, intestate and without heirs or next of kin, before the termination of the treaty; and, in the administration of his estate by the New York courts, the question arose whether his net assets, after satisfying creditors and expense of administration, should escheat to the state or be paid to the Italian Consul General for disposition to the Kingdom of Italy.


(1) The provision in the convention, assuming it contemplates reciprocity of rights and is so recognized by Italy, confers upon the Consul General the rights defined by the treaty provision. P. 284 U. S. 36.

(2) The termination of the treaty, having occurred after the death, does not affect the case. Id.

(3) The net assets must be delivered to the Consul General, since Art. VI contains no qualification recognizing precedence of local laws, and, when considered with other portions of the treaty, and the general purpose of the treaty to promote commercial intercourse, it clearly includes subjects of either country who are domiciled in the other. Pp. 284 U. S. 36-39.

3. As treaties are contracts between independent nations, their words are to be taken in their ordinary meaning as understood in the public law of nations. P. 284 U. S. 40.

4. The United States, under the treatymaking power, may determine the disposition of property of aliens, and any conflicting law of a state must yield. Id.

135 N.Y.Misc. 733; 240 N.Y.Supp. 691, reversed.

Appeal, given the effect of a writ of certiorari, to review a decree of the Surrogates' Court of New York County settling an estate, which was affirmed by the Appellate Division, 229 App.Div. 862 243 N.Y.S. 814. The chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 284 U. S. 32

record went back to the Surrogates' Court by remittitur, leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals having been denied by that court and by the Appellate Division. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 284 U. S. 34

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