APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS.
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.
This is the second appeal in this case. The first appeal was on a question of jurisdiction, and is reported in 196 U.S. 415. The object of the suit is to set aside and to declare invalid the liens of certain judgments of the Probate Court of St. Francis County, Arkansas, upon certain real estate, and that the defendants be enjoined from enforcing such judgments. The judgments were rendered upon claims against the estate of Hiram Evans, deceased.
James Evans was appointed administrator of the estate. Among the assets which came to his hands was a drug store, with its stock of goods, fixtures, book accounts and other things, which he sold to John Evans on the first of May, 1891. The latter conducted the business in his own name and incurred obligations to the defendants aggregating $3,000.00, as well as debts and obligations to other persons, but no single one of his debts exceeded $2,000.00. John Evans became insolvent, and on May 27, 1892, transferred to the administrator the drug store and all that remained of the goods, fixtures and book accounts. The bill alleged that the defendants "conspired, colluded and confederated together with John Evans and the administrator to secure the payment of their claims and demands against John Evans out of the estate of Hiram Evans, deceased," and, "so conspiring and confederating," they presented to the Probate Court their several claims and demands, and that the administrator, James Evans, fraudulently and illegally approved them for allowance against the estate of Hiram Evans. And for like purpose, it was alleged, they procured the judgment of the Probate Court, establishing their claims by concealing from the court that they were debts and obligations of John Evans and "cloaking the same under the name of expenses of administration of the said estate, all of which transactions were a part of the same scheme and were participated in by each and all of the said defendants and by said John Evans and James Evans, administrator." It was further alleged that the judgments were wholly the result of the conspiracy and confederation set out and the fraud practiced in pursuance thereof, and are in equity and good conscience void and ineffectual for any purpose whatever, and ought not to be enforced, but that, nevertheless, the same are at law "liens upon the real estate" described in the bill, "and charges against the respective interests of the plaintiffs." There were other allegations showing that plaintiffs could only obtain relief in equity.
The Circuit Court sustained a demurrer to the bill, being of
opinion that the value of the matter in dispute was not sufficient to give jurisdiction. On appeal to this court, we said, defining the matter in dispute and its value:
"The matter in dispute is whether the lands in which the plaintiffs have a joint undivided interest of one-half can be sold to pay all the claims, in the aggregate, which the defendants, by Combination and conspiracy, procured the Probate Court to allow against the estate of Hiram Evans. The essence of the suit is the alleged fraudulent combination and conspiracy to fasten upon that estate a liability for debts of John Evans, which were held by the defendants and which they, acting in combination, procured, in cooperation with James Evans, to be allowed as claims against the estate of Hiram Evans. By reason of that combination, resulting in the allowance of all those claims in the Probate Court, as expenses of administering the estate of Hiram Evans, the defendants have so tied their respective claims together as to make them, so far as the plaintiffs and the relief sought by them are concerned, one claim."
"That it was competent for the Circuit Court upon the case made by the bill to deprive the defendants, acting in combination and claiming the benefit of the orders made in the Probate Court allowing their respective claims. That the value of the matter in dispute in the Circuit Court was the aggregate amount of all the claims so allowed against the estate of Hiram Evans."
The decree of the Circuit Court was reversed with directions to set aside the order dismissing the bill and to overrule the demurrer.
Upon the return of the case to the Circuit Court defendants answered, and the court, after hearing evidence, found that there was a "total failure to establish the fact alleged in the bill, that the said defendants or any two or more of them, whose claims in the aggregate exceeded the sum of ...