United States District Court, D. Minnesota
James V. Nguyen, Plaintiff,
Amanda G. Gustafson; Henry M. Buffalo, Jr., in his official capacity as Tribal Court Judge of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Tribal Court; the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Tribal Court, Defendants.
Jonathan D. Miller and Ariel K. Lierz, Meagher & Geer,
PLLP, for Plaintiff James V. Nguyen.
A. Debele, Messerli & Kramer, P.A., and Theresa Bea,
Berg, Debele, DeSmidt & Rabuse, P.A. for Defendant Amanda
Richard A. Duncan and Joshua Todd Peterson, Faegre Baker
Daniels, and Greg S. Paulson, Brodeen & Paulson,
P.L.L.P., for Defendants Henry M. Buffalo, Tribal Court
Judge, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Tribal
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for a
Preliminary Injunction [Doc. No. 4]. For the reasons stated
below, this Court denies the motion.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
underlying facts of this action concern divorce proceedings
between Plaintiff James V. Nguyen and Defendant Amanda G.
Gustafson. Gustafson is an enrolled member of the Shakopee
Mdewakanton Sioux Community, while Nguyen is not a member.
(Compl. ¶¶ 4, 13 [Doc. No. 1].) Nguyen and
Gustafson were married in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2014, and are
the parents of a minor child. (See Hennepin Cty.
Pet. ¶¶ II, IV, Ex. D to Miller Decl. [Doc. No.
7-4].) Both parties now reside in Minnesota. (Id.
2017, Nguyen filed for dissolution of marriage in California
state court, as he resided in California at that time.
(Tribal Court Order at 4, Ex. F to Miller Decl. [Doc. No.
7-6].; Compl. ¶ 8.) In July 2017, Gustafson filed for
dissolution of marriage in the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux
Community Tribal Court (“Tribal Court”), a
defendant in the current action. (Compl. ¶9.) Defendant
Henry M. Buffalo, Jr., Judge of the Tribal Court, was
assigned the case. (Id.)
California state court held a two-day evidentiary hearing on
July 27 and 28, 2017 to discuss custody and visitation.
(Id. ¶ 10.) On August 3, 2017, the California
state court declined to accept jurisdiction and stayed the
proceedings. (Id.) Upon receipt of a Tribal Court
order dated August 10, 2017, in which that court confirmed
its intent to proceed with the case, the California state
court dismissed the proceedings before it. (Tribal Court
Order at 7, Ex. F to Miller Decl.)
thereafter, Nguyen moved to Minnesota and filed for
dissolution of marriage in Hennepin County. (Hennepin Cty.
Pet. ¶ V; Compl. ¶ 11.) In his filings, Nguyen
disclosed that he was not currently employed and did not
receive any earned income, with the exception of some rental
income from a leased property. (Hennepin Cty. Pet. ¶ X.)
He also alleged that although Gustafson was not currently
employed, she received per capita payments as a member of the
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. (Id.) On
January 8, 2018, the Hennepin County court stayed
Nguyen's action as a matter of judicial expedience and
comity, pending the proceedings in Tribal Court. (Compl.
October 2017, Nguyen moved to dismiss the proceedings in
Tribal Court, asserting that the court lacked personal and
subject matter jurisdiction. (Id. ¶ 23.) Judge
Buffalo issued a written ruling on November 10, 2017, in
which he found that the Tribal Court had both subject matter
and personal jurisdiction and had a substantial interest in
continuing to exercise its jurisdiction. (Tribal Court Order
at 46, Ex. F to Miller Decl.)
then sought an appeal with the Court of Appeals for the
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (the “Tribal Court
of Appeals”). (Compl. ¶¶ 26.) He requested
permission to appeal under the collateral order doctrine, and
in the alternative, asked the Tribal Court to certify the
November 10, 2017 decision for interlocutory appeal.
(Id. ¶ 27.) On December 11, 2017, the Tribal
Court denied Nguyen's request for certification, and also
found that his motion to dismiss did not fall within the
collateral order doctrine. (Id. ¶ 29.) On
January 30, 2018, the Tribal Court of Appeals denied
Nguyen's request for an appeal under the collateral order
doctrine, and because it was not certified for interlocutory
appeal. (Id. ¶ 31.)
March 7, 2018, Nguyen filed this action for injunctive and
declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, under
which non-Indians may bring a federal common law cause of
action challenging tribal court jurisdiction. See
Nat'l Farmers Union Ins. Cos. v. Crow Tribe of
Indians, 471 U.S. 845, 850-53 (1985). He seeks a
declaration that the Tribal Court lacks jurisdiction over the
dissolution proceedings and that proper jurisdiction rests in
state court. (Compl. ¶¶ 39-40.) In addition, he
seeks a preliminary injunction to halt all current
proceedings in Tribal Court and to prohibit any defendant
from prosecuting Gustafson's position in that court.
(Id. ¶ 45.) Nguyen contends that he will suffer
irreparable harm if forced to complete discovery and
participate in proceedings in a court system that lacks
jurisdiction, and that he is likely to succeed on the merits
of his contention that the Tribal Court lacks jurisdiction.
(Id. ¶ 44.)
has filed a motion in Tribal Court seeking to bifurcate the
dissolution proceedings and to address parenting time, which
is scheduled to be heard on March 22, 2018. (Pl.'s Mem.
at 6 [Doc. No. 6].) This hearing appears to have prompted the
filing of Nguyen's request for injunctive relief in this
Court. Nguyen also asserts that pursuant to the Tribal
Court's scheduling order, he is required to complete
discovery by April ...