Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co.

Decision Date28 December 2012
Docket NumberNo. CIV 12–3021–RAL.,CIV 12–3021–RAL.
Citation910 F.Supp.2d 1188
PartiesPLAINS COMMERCE BANK, Jerome Hageman, and Randy Robinson, Plaintiffs, v. LONG FAMILY LAND AND CATTLE CO., INC., Ronnie Long, Lila Long, and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Dakota

910 F.Supp.2d 1188

PLAINS COMMERCE BANK, Jerome Hageman, and Randy Robinson, Plaintiffs,
v.
LONG FAMILY LAND AND CATTLE CO., INC., Ronnie Long, Lila Long, and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court, Defendants.

No. CIV 12–3021–RAL.

United States District Court,
D. South Dakota,
Central Division.

Dec. 28, 2012.


[910 F.Supp.2d 1189]


Daniel R. Fritz, II, Lindquist & Vennum Pllpsioux Falls Office, Sioux Falls, SD, Paul Anthony Banker, Lindquist & Vennum, P.L.L.P., Minneapolis, MN, for Plaintiffs.

James P. Hurley, Mark F. Marshall, Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye & Simmons, Rapid City, SD, for Defendants.


OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ROBERTO A. LANGE, District Judge.

This case is a continuation of a dispute that culminated in a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., 554 U.S. 316, 128 S.Ct. 2709, 171 L.Ed.2d 457 (2008). Approximately four years after the Supreme Court released its opinion in Plains Commerce Bank, Defendants Long Family Land and Cattle Company, Inc., Ronnie Long, and Lila Long resumed litigation by filing an action in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court against Plaintiffs Plains Commerce Bank, Jerome Hageman, and Randy Robinson. Plaintiffs responded by starting this federal court action to seek to enjoin the Tribal Court action. This case and the Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment present a legal issue: whether this Court should decide now or defer in the first instance to the Tribal Court to determine the effect of the Supreme Court's decision in Plains Commerce Bank on the underlying Tribal Court judgment. For the reasons explained in this Opinion and Order,

[910 F.Supp.2d 1190]

this Court defers decision at this time to the Tribal Court based on the doctrine of tribal court exhaustion and comity interests. Therefore, this Court denies Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and declines to grant the relief requested in Plaintiffs' Complaint.

I. Undisputed Material Facts

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court must take the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, there exists no genuine dispute as to any material fact regarding the legal issues before this Court. The litigation history between these parties is a matter of public record and not a matter of disputed fact.

The principal Defendants in this case—Long Family Land and Cattle Company, Inc., Ronnie Long, and Lila Long (collectively “the Longs”)—sued the primary Plaintiff in this case—Plains Commerce Bank—in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court in July 1999. Plains Commerce Bank, 554 U.S. at 322, 128 S.Ct. 2709. Ronnie and Lila Long are enrolled members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and operated a ranch within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation. Id. at 321, 128 S.Ct. 2709. The Longs' claims arose out of a banking relationship that they had with Plains Commerce Bank, which is a South Dakota bank based outside of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Id. Because of financial problems, the Longs had defaulted on certain loans, deeded over certain land to Plains Commerce Bank while retaining an option to repurchase the land, and entered into an agreement to lease the land back from Plains Commerce Bank. Id. at 321–22, 128 S.Ct. 2709. Due to additional financial stress caused by cattle deaths during a particularly harsh winter, the Longs were unable to exercise the option to purchase when the lease agreement expired. Id. at 322, 128 S.Ct. 2709. Plains Commerce Bank chose to evict the Longs and sell the land the Longs previously had owned to non-Indians. Id. The Longs sued the Bank in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court for various claims, including breach of contract, bad faith, violation of tribal-law self-help remedies, and discrimination.1Id.

Plains Commerce Bank answered the Tribal Court complaint and unsuccessfully disputed the jurisdiction of the Tribal Court. Id. After a two-day jury trial in Tribal Court in December of 2002, a jury returned a verdict finding for the Longs on three of the four claims submitted to the jury and awarded $750,000.00 on a general verdict form. Id. at 323, 128 S.Ct. 2709; Doc. 25–7 at 4. The Tribal Court denied the Bank's post-trial motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and entered judgment for the Longs in the amount of $750,000.00, plus interest. Id. The Tribal Court later entered a supplemental judgment awarding the Longs an option to purchase the land that Plains Commerce Bank had sold to non-Indians. Id.

Plains Commerce Bank appealed to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court of Appeals raising various issues, including a single jurisdictional issue: “The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction for a claim of discrimination against a non-tribal member, off reservation Bank which claim was presented to the jury. Such discrimination action tainted the entire trial.” Doc. 25–5. Plains Commerce Bank later framed the

[910 F.Supp.2d 1191]

issue before the Tribal Court of Appeals as: “Does the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court lack jurisdiction for a claim of discrimination against an off-reservation bank.” Doc. 25–6. Plains Commerce Bank did not appeal to the Tribal Court of Appeals the questions of jurisdiction over the breach of contract and contractual bad faith claims. See Doc. 27. To appeal to the Tribal Court of Appeals, Plains Commerce Bank as principal and Plaintiffs Jerome Hageman and Randy Robinson as sureties, executed an appeal bond in the amount of $875,922.46 for the judgment amount and interest. Doc. 23; Doc. 27. The Tribal Court of Appeals in November of 2004 upheld the judgment. Doc. 25–7.

Plains Commerce Bank then sued the Longs in federal district court challenging tribal jurisdiction over the discrimination claim.2Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., Inc.. In Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., Inc., 440 F.Supp.2d 1070 (D.S.D.2006), the Honorable Charles B. Kornmann on cross motions for summary judgment determined that tribal jurisdiction existed over the Longs' discrimination claim based on the first exception set forth in Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544, 101 S.Ct. 1245, 67 L.Ed.2d 493 (1981), which allows a tribe to “regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealing, contracts, leases, or other arrangements.” Id. at 565, 101 S.Ct. 1245;see also Strate v. A–1 Contractors, 520 U.S. 438, 453, 117 S.Ct. 1404, 137 L.Ed.2d 661 (1997) (noting Tribal Court jurisdiction is co-extensive to the regulatory authority of the tribe under Montana ). The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed Judge Kornmann's decision. Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., Inc., 491 F.3d 878, 886 (8th Cir.2007).

Plains Commerce Bank then filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court framed the sole issue before it as “whether the Tribal Court had jurisdiction to adjudicate a discrimination claim concerning the non-Indian bank's sale of fee land it owned.” Plains Commerce Bank, 554 U.S. at 320, 128 S.Ct. 2709. The Supreme Court reversed the Eighth Circuit's decision and held that the Tribal Court did not have jurisdiction over the discrimination claim. Id. All nine justices agreed that the Tribal Court did not have jurisdiction to give Ronnie and Lila Long an option to repurchase land that Plains Commerce Bank had contracted to sell to non-Indians. See id. at 342, 128 S.Ct. 2709 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting). The Supreme Court justices split five-to-four on other matters.

In May 2012, nearly four years after the Supreme Court decision in Plains Commerce Bank, the Longs filed another action in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court. Doc. 1–1. The Longs sued all three of the Plaintiffs in this case—Plains Commerce Bank, Jerome Hageman, and Randy Robinson—to seek to collect on the appeal bond executed by those parties in May 2003 as apart of the Bank's appeal to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court of Appeals. Doc. 1–1. The Longs' current Tribal Court complaint asserts that, because Plains Commerce Bank did not appeal

[910 F.Supp.2d 1192]

from the jury's finding for the Longs on claims for breach of contract and contractual bad faith, the Bank still owes the entire amount that the jury awarded, plus interest, and that the Plaintiffs should pay under the appeal bond. Doc. 1–1.

Plains Commerce Bank, Hageman, and Robinson filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Tribal Court has no jurisdiction over the new Tribal Court case and seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent the Tribal Court from proceeding. Doc. 1. These Plaintiffs named not only the Longs, but also the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court as Defendants. Doc. 1. The Plaintiffs then filed a motion for summary judgment, Doc. 21, which the Defendants resist. Doc. 26.

II. Legal Analysis

The primary issue in this case presently is whether this Court should enjoin the Tribal Court case and decide the effect of the Supreme Court decision on the Tribal Court judgment or defer to the Tribal Court to do so in the first instance. Plains Commerce Bank invokes federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The issue of whether a tribal court has jurisdiction over nonmembers is a federal question. Plains Commerce Bank, 554 U.S. at 324, 128 S.Ct. 2709. However, “even where a federal question exists, due to considerations of comity, federal court jurisdiction does not properly arise until available remedies in the tribal court system have been exhausted.” Auto–Owners Ins. Co. v. Tribal Court of Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, 495 F.3d 1017, 1021 (8th Cir.2007). Thus, this Court must determine whether “available remedies...

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