Constitutional jurisdictional limitations may justify relief from a judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60 (b).
Sara M. Boyd, the widow of Colin M. Boyd, died testate in June 1937, leaving an state valued at about $225,000. On July 8, 1937, in the superior court in San Francisco, her will was admitted to probate and petitioner, Bank of California, was appointed executor. The will left individual legacies and bequests amounting to $60,000 to a large number of legatees. On October 4, 1937, Bertha M. Smedley, a niece and legatee, brought an action to enforce provisions of an alleged contract by which decedent agreed to leave her entire estate to the plaintiff. The complaint names as parties defendant the executor and all of the beneficiaries under the will, and prayed for a decree adjudging that plaintiff is, by virtue of the agreement, the owner of the entire estate of the decedent after payment of debts and expenses. It was further prayed that plaintiff’s title to the property be quieted; that defendants be ordered to execute deeds to her, and that upon failure of any defendant to do so the clerk should execute such an instrument. Immediately upon opening of the trial, petitioners made a motion under section 389 of the Code of Civil Procedure for an order to bring in the other defendants and to have summons issued and served upon them. The motion was denied by respondent court. Petitioners then applied for a writ of prohibition to restrain the trial until these other parties could be brought in.
Should a writ of prohibition be enforced to allow other specified defendants to be brought in as necessary and indispensable parties?
The court held that the action in these cases were against the distributee personally and not against the estate; it is independent of the will and the probate proceeding. Each distributee is individually held as a constructive trustee solely of the property which came to him, and none is interested in the granting or denial of similar relief to any other. The case here is one where plaintiff may litigate her claims against the appearing defendants alone and obtain a decree which binds them and them alone. The absent ones will not be bound by the judgment and their property interests will not be affected.