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U.S. Supreme Court

Fidelity Union Trust Co. v. Field, 311 U.S. 169 (1940)

Fidelity Union Trust Co. v. Field

No. 32

Argued November 12, 13, 1940

Decided December 9, 1940

311 U.S. 169


1. Where the applicable rule of decision is the state law, the duty of the federal court is to ascertain and apply that law even though it has not been expounded by the highest court of the State. P. 311 U. S. 177.

2. An intermediate state court, in declaring and applying the state law, is acting as an organ of the State, and its determination, in the absence of more convincing evidence of what the state law is, should be followed by a federal court in deciding a state question. P. 311 U. S. 177.

3. Certain statutes of New Jersey had been held by the state Court of Chancery, in two cases decided independently by two Vice-Chancellors, not to have changed the preexisting law of the State with respect to the insufficiency of a mere savings bank deposit made by a decedent in his own name as "trustee" for another, but over which he exercised complete control during his life, to establish a gift inter vivos or to create a trust as against the decedent's legal representatives. So far as appeared, the Court of Appeals of New Jersey had not expressed any opinion on the construction or effect of these statutes, and the decisions of the Chancery court stood as the only exposition of the relevant state law. Held, in a case presenting the same question, that a federal court was bound to follow the decisions of the Chancery court, and was not at liberty to reject them merely because it did not agree with their reasoning. P. 311 U. S. 178.

4. It is inadmissible that there should be one rule of state law for litigants in the state courts and another rule, simply because of diverse citizenship, for litigants in the federal courts. P. 311 U. S. 180.

108 F.2d 521 reversed; District Court affirmed.

Certiorari, 309 U.S. 652, to review the reversal of a decree of the District Court which declined to fasten a trust on a savings bank account. Jurisdiction was by diversity of citizenship. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 311 U. S. 174

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