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Darrel & Janine Gustafson, D/B/A 1 Stop Market v. Linus Poitra and Raymond Poitra

October 5, 2012

DARREL & JANINE GUSTAFSON, D/B/A 1 STOP MARKET, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LINUS POITRA AND RAYMOND POITRA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Daniel L. Hovland, District Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

Before the Court is a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order filed by the Plaintiffs on October 1, 2012. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

This lawsuit concerns the alleged interference with a business located within the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. The record reveals the parties have been embroiled in a litany of legal battles for more than a decade. The Plaintiffs, Darrel and Janine Gustafson, are non-Indians who own and operate the 1 Stop Market in Belcourt, North Dakota. The business is a gas station and convenience store located on non-Indian fee land-property owned in fee by non-Indians, the Gustafsons, but located within the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. See Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., 554 U.S. 316, 328 (2008) (explaining the Supreme Court uses the term "non-Indian fee land" to refer to land within a reservation owned by a non-Indian in fee). The Defendants, Linus and Raymond Poitra, are enrolled members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and live on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. The Gustafsons essentially contend the Poitras are interfering with their business by blocking the access road to 1 Stop Market. The Gustafsons seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the Poitras from interfering with their ownership rights and interest in their property.

II. LEGAL DISCUSSION

In determining whether a temporary restraining order should be granted, Rule 65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure directs the court to look to the specific facts shown by an affidavit to determine whether immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant. In determining whether preliminary injunctive relief should be granted, the court is required to consider the factors set forth in Dataphase Sys., Inc., v. C L Sys., Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981). Whether a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order should be granted involves consideration of "(1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the state of balance between this harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict on other parties litigant; (3) the probability that movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public interest." Id.

It is well-established that the burden of establishing the necessity of a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction is on the movant. Baker Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Chaske, 28 F.3d 1466, 1472 (8th Cir. 1994); Modern Computer Sys., Inc. v. Modern Banking Sys., Inc., 871 F.2d 734, 737 (8th Cir. 1989). "No single factor in itself is dispositive; in each case all of the factors must be considered to determine whether on balance they weigh towards granting the injunction." Baker Elec. Coop., Inc., 28 F.3d at 1472 (quoting Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corp. v. Lenox Labs., Inc., 815 F.2d 500, 503 (8th Cir. 1987)).

A. IRREPARABLE HARM

The plaintiffs must establish there is a threat of irreparable harm if injunctive relief is not granted and that such harm is not compensable by money damages. Doe v. LaDue, 514 F. Supp. 2d 1131, 1135 (D. Minn. 2007) (citing Northland Ins. Co. v. Blaylock, 115 F. Supp. 2d 1108, 1116 (D. Minn. 2000)). "The 'mere possibility' that harm may occur before a trial on the merits is not enough." Johnson v. Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 351 F. Supp. 2d 929, 945 (E. D. Mo. 2004). The party that seeks the temporary restraining order must show a significant risk of harm exists. Doe, 514 F. Supp. 2d at 1135 (citing Johnson, 351 F. Supp. 2d at 945). The absence of such a showing is sufficient grounds to deny injunctive relief. Id. (citing Gelco v. Coniston Partners, 811 F.2d 414, 420 (8th Cir. 1987)).

The Gustafsons allege they will suffer irreparable harm if the Poitras continue to block vendors and customers' access to the 1 Stop Market in Belcourt, North Dakota. In addition to monetary damages, the Gustafsons contend 1 Stop Market will incur damage to its goodwill. The Eighth Circuit has held that threatened loss of goodwill is sufficient to constitute irreparable harm. Medicine Shoppe Int'l, Inc. v. S.B. S. Pill Dr., Inc., 336 F.3d 801, 805 (8th Cir. 2003). The Court finds that this Dataphase factor weighs in favor of the issuance of a temporary restraining order.

In addition, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that a district court can presume irreparable harm if the movant is likely to succeed on the merits. Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corp., 815 F.2d at 505 (citing Black Hills Jewelry Mfg. Co. v. Gold Rush, Inc., 633 F.2d 746, 753 (8th Cir. 1980)). As discussed below, the Court finds that irreparable harm is shown because the Gustafsons have demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits. Accordingly, this Dataphase factor weighs in favor of the issuance of a temporary restraining order.

B. BALANCE OF HARM

The Gustafsons have filed documents with the Court purporting to show they own the land underlying the access road and the 1 Stop Market. On the face of the documents, it appears the Gustafsons own the property in question which the Poitras are allegedly interfering with. As such, the Poitras would suffer no cognizable harm if enjoined from interfering with the Gustafsons' property. On the other hand, the Gustafsons would continue to suffer harm if the Poitras continue to interfere with their property interests. Accordingly, based on the record made available to the Court, the ...


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