Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Nguyen v. Gustafson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 21, 2018

James V. Nguyen, Plaintiff,
v.
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.

          Gary A. Debele, Messerli & Kramer, P.A., and Theresa Bea, Berg, Debele, DeSmidt & Rabuse, P.A. for Defendant Amanda G. Gustafson.

          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 Court.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This 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.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The 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. ¶ V.)

         In June 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.)

         The 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.)

         Shortly 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. ¶ 12.)

         In 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.)

         Nguyen 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.)

         On 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.)

         Nguyen 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.