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Luger v. Luger

May 14, 2009

CANDACE E. LUGER, JOAN M. NETTERVILLE, MARY P. SWALLOW, LISA S. KAMPESKA, AND JEFFREY KURT LUGER, PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLEES
v.
ROBERT LUGER AND RAYMOND LUGER, DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS



Appeal from the District Court of Sioux County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Sonna M. Anderson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandstrom, Justice.

AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

[¶1] Robert Luger and Raymond Luger appeal from a district court amended judgment and from an order denying their Rule 60(b) motion to vacate the court's default judgment, which held that the district court had subject matter and personal jurisdiction and that its default judgment was within the prayer for relief requested in the complaint. We affirm the jurisdiction of the district court and the default of the defendants, reverse the award of money damages, and remand with directions that the default judgment be modified.

I.

[¶2] The parties, who are enrolled members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, are siblings and partners in the Luger Ranch Land Partnership, a North Dakota general real estate partnership which owns and manages 7,170.42 acres on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. Only the defendants reside on the Standing Rock Reservation.

[¶3] The partnership was established in 1995 after Thelma Luger (the parties' mother) wanted to formalize the business relationship she and her children had regarding management and rental of the family's real estate in Sioux County. Thelma Luger, acting as personal representative of the estate of her late husband, deeded the land to the partnership. As originally organized, Thelma Luger owned 30 percent of the partnership, and her children each owned 8.75 percent. Later, Thelma gave her interest in the partnership to the children, resulting in each holding an equal one-eighth interest.

[¶4] Because the defendants had managed the partnership's property without accounting for the partnership's income to the other partners, in 2004, a management committee elected by a 75 percent majority under the partnership agreement requested an accounting of partnership income from the defendants. Robert Luger and Raymond Luger failed to respond, and the plaintiffs sued, alleging Robert Luger and Raymond Luger used the partnership property as their own, receiving all government payments, crop proceeds, and third-party pasture rental receipts, with no accounting to the other six partners. Later, one of the six original plaintiffs expressed his intent to withdraw, and the district court dismissed his claim against Robert Luger and Raymond Luger without prejudice. In March 2007, the district court entered a default judgment after Robert Luger and Raymond Luger failed to respond to the plaintiffs' motion for default judgment. In October 2007, Robert Luger and Raymond Luger moved to vacate the amended default judgment under Rule 60(b) on the basis that through mistake, inadvertence, or excusable neglect, they failed to answer the complaint; the judgment grants relief not prayed for in the complaint; the amount in the judgment is clearly excessive; and the plaintiffs violated the terms and conditions of the partnership agreement by failing to submit their dispute to arbitration. At a January 2008 hearing, the district court ordered the parties to submit simultaneous briefs regarding the issue of subject matter and personal jurisdiction. The district court then denied the defendants' Rule 60(b) motion to vacate, holding that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the suit and personal jurisdiction over the defendants and that the judgment is just, appropriate, and within the prayer for relief requested in the complaint. An amended judgment was entered in July 2008.

[¶5] This appeal was timely under N.D.R.App.P. 4(a). This Court has jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, §§ 2 and 6, and N.D.C.C. § 28- 27-01.

II.

[¶6] A district court's decision on a Rule 60(b) motion to vacate a default judgment is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. State v. $33,000.00 United States Currency, 2008 ND 96, ¶ 6, 748 N.W.2d 420. A district court abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily, unreasonably, or unconscionably, or when it misinterprets or misapplies the law. Id.

III.

[¶7] Robert Luger and Raymond Luger argue the district court lacked subject matter and personal jurisdiction in this case because they are enrolled members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, residing on the Standing Rock Reservation.

A.

[¶8] A state court will not have jurisdiction over a claim when it undermines tribal authority. Winer v. Penny Enterprises, Inc., 2004 ND 21, ¶ 11, 674 N.W.2d 9. "`A [state] court has subject matter jurisdiction over an action if the constitution and the laws authorize that court to hear the type of cases to which the particular action belongs.'" Bolinske v. Herd, 2004 ND 217, ¶ 8, 689 N.W.2d 397 (quoting Larson v. Dunn, 474 N.W.2d 34, 38 (N.D. 1991)). Subject matter ...


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