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June 14, 1915



White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds

Author: Mckenna

[ 238 U.S. Page 124]

 MR. JUSTICE MCKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.

Appeal to review a decree of the Supreme Court of Hawaii which reversed a decree of the circuit judge of the first judicial circuit enjoining the prosecution of an action of ejectment brought by Mary H. Atcherley, one of the appellees, against appellant for the recovery of certain described lands, decreeing that appellant had the equitable title to the lands and that appellees, including Dickey and Watson, who were made parties pending the suit, held the naked legal title thereto as tenants in common, one-half thereof by Mary H. Atcherley and one-quarter thereof by each of the other appellees, as trustees of appellant. The decree required that the appellees execute a conveyance of such title to appellant.

The bill alleges that one David Kalakaua, under and through whom the appellant company (designated hereinafter as complainant) claims, on or about December 29, 1856, litigated his title with the following parties, under whom defendant Atcherley claims title, to-wit: Kinimaka, Pai, his wife, and their children, in the Supreme Court of the Hawaiian Islands, in equity, alleging that Kinimaka held title to the lands in trust and as guardian

[ 238 U.S. Page 125]

     of Kalakaua and not otherwise, and praying that he, Kinimaka, be declared trustee of the lands for Kalakaua and be decreed to convey the same in fee to Kalakaua; that summons was duly issued and served on Kinimaka, who, before filing answer died, leaving a will devising the lands to his children, whom he left surviving him, and his widow, Pai; that these facts were suggested to the court and it was prayed that the widow and children be made parties to the suit, and a guardian ad litem be appointed for the children, it being alleged that they became trustees of the property in the same manner and under the same trust as Kinimaka.

That subsequently (March 8, 1858) Kalakaua filed a petition for administration upon the estate of one Kaniu, deceased, under whom he claimed title to the lands, and for the appointment of a guardian ad litem for the minor children of Kinimaka. That upon the filing of such petition George E. Beckwith, administrator of the estate of Kinimaka, was appointed guardian ad litem of the minor children of Kinimaka, and notice was served on him as such administrator and guardian and upon Pai to show cause why letters of administration might not issue to Kalakaua upon the estate of Kaniu, deceased.

That upon proceedings being had a decree was rendered adjudging Kalakaua to be the devisee of Kaniu and directing letters to be issued to him.

That on June 19, 1858, Kalakaua filed a further petition alleging the same facts substantially which he had alleged in the petitions of December 29, 1856, and March 16, 1857, with the additional fact that one Richard Armstrong had been appointed guardian of the minor children of Kinimaka, and prayed that he might be ordered to convey the lands to Kalakaua; and that a summons was duly served upon Armstrong as guardian of the children and upon Pai; that Armstrong and Pai subsequently answered; that evidence was taken, the case heard upon

[ 238 U.S. Page 126]

     the merits, and on November 2, 1858, the court duly entered the following decree:

"David Kalakaua against Richard Armstrong, guardian of Kaniu, David Leleo, and Kinimaka, minor children of Kinimaka, deceased. The court did order, adjudge and decree in this matter that Mr. Armstrong, as guardian of Kaniu, David Leleo, and Kinimaka, minor children of Kinimaka, deceased, do convey to David Kalakaua, the plaintiff in this cause, the land named Omulimalo, on the island of Molokai, and the first Apana of land set forth in Royal Patent 1602 filed in this cause."

That it did not appear either from the records of the court or from the registry of deeds in Honolulu that the decree of the court was in fact obeyed but, it is alleged, that after the decree Kalakaua "ceased to be molested in any way by either the widow and heirs aforesaid of said Kinimaka, or by the said Armstrong in their behalf, and retained open, notorious and undisputed possession and dealt with the said land in all ways as his own, and continued to do so until he disposed of said property."

The bill here made "all papers, pleadings and exhibits of whatsoever kind in said equity proceedings" a part of it and asked leave to refer to them as if actually incorporated therein. Then came the following: "And, in this connection, the complainant attaches hereto a copy of the original Land Commission award and royal patent [they were not previously referred to in the bill], and copies of the original record of evidence given before the Land Commission in support of said Land Commission award and royal patent, the same being referred to and made a part of the evidence in said equity proceedings instituted in the years 1856 and 1857 above referred to, which said copies are made a part of this bill."

That the successors in title of Kalakaua (the conveyances being set out) had retained and had been in the same kind of possession and exercised the same disposition

[ 238 U.S. Page 127]

     as he. That such possession in Kalakaua and his successors was known to the children of Kinimaka; that they attained their majority respectively in 1867, 1871 and 1877 and at no time did they or any of them assert any claim to the land or deny the rights of Kalakaua or his successors but acquiesced in his and their possession.

The manner by which defendants obtained the title they assert was set out and it was alleged that owing to the failure of Armstrong to obey the decree of the court and convey the interest of the children of Kinimaka as ordered by the court, complainant's required chain of title was incomplete and that the action in ejectment of Mary H. Atcherley, one of the defendants, sought "to take unconscionable advantage of the above-mentioned technical error in the chain of title." A cloud upon the title of complainant was asserted hence to follow and that it would be inequitable to permit her to prosecute her action of ejectment and that as naked trustee of the title she should be required to convey it to appellant.

An injunction, temporary and permanent, was prayed and that Mary H. Atcherley, the defendant, be declared trustee and be required to convey the property to complainant.

Copies of the proceedings referred to in the bill were annexed to it as exhibits. Among these, we have seen, were the award of the Land Commission and the royal title. The latter recites that --

"Whereas the Board of Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles has awarded to Kinimaka by award No. 129 a freehold estate less than allodial in the premises mentioned below, and,

"Whereas, Kinimaka has paid into the government treasury eighty-two and 50/100 Dollars for the government's rights in said land,

"Therefore, by this Royal Patent Kamehameha III . . . shows . . . that he has conveyed and

[ 238 U.S. Page 128]

     granted in fee simple to Kinimaka that land at Honolulu on the Island of Oahu with these boundaries . . . It is granted in fee ...

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