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State v. Peltier

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 11, 2018

State of North Dakota, Statutory Party in Interest and Appellee
v.
Daniel Peltier, Defendant and Appellant and Daniell S. Breland, Plaintiff

          Appeal from the District Court of Rolette County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Anthony S. Benson, Judge.

          Courtney A. Evenson, Devils Lake, ND, for appellee and plaintiff.

          Thomas M. Disselhorst, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          Daniel Peltier (on brief), self-represented, Dunseith, ND, defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Daniel Peltier appeals from an order denying his motion for relief from a child support judgment. Peltier argues the state district court erred in denying his motion because the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court has exclusive subject matter jurisdiction to decide his child support obligation. We conclude the state district court has concurrent jurisdiction to decide Peltier's child support obligation, and the district court did not err in denying his motion for relief from the judgment. We affirm. I

         [¶ 2] After a January 2009 hearing, the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court entered an order determining Peltier was the biological father of a child born to Daniell Breland in Belcourt in February 2008. The tribal court paternity order stated Peltier was an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Breland was an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and they had been residing on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation for more than six months before the paternity proceeding was commenced. The paternity order did not address child support.

         [¶ 3] Breland received financial assistance from the State for the child, and she assigned her right to child support to the State. Shortly thereafter, in March 2009, the State, as a statutory party in interest, brought an action against Peltier in state district court to establish his child support obligation. Peltier did not appear or respond in that action, and a state court judgment was entered in May 2009, ordering him to pay Breland $330 per month in child support.

         [¶ 4] In September 2014, the State moved to amend the state court judgment to require Peltier to pay Breland $606 per month in child support. In October 2014, the court issued an order for judgment stating that Peltier had failed to answer the State's motion and that the judgment was amended to require Peltier to pay Breland $606 per month in child support.

         [¶ 5] In June 2016, the state court issued an order requiring Peltier to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for failing to pay child support and why his driver's license should not be withheld, restricted, or suspended. Peltier appeared without counsel at a September 2016 hearing, and the court thereafter issued a September 12, 2016 order, finding he had the ability to pay his child support obligation, he had not made reasonable efforts to pay that amount, and he was in contempt of court. The court ordered Peltier to make payments of $606 per month to the state disbursement unit and sentenced him to ten days in jail unless he purged the contempt by making payments of no less than $606 per month beginning on October 1, 2016.

         [¶ 6] On September 27, 2016, Peltier, without counsel, filed a motion to dismiss the child support proceeding, claiming the state court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his child support obligation. The record does not reflect that Peltier served that motion on Breland or the State, but the record includes a letter from the clerk of court to Peltier informing him that he was responsible for following procedural rules regarding service on all parties.

         [¶ 7] A warrant of attachment was subsequently issued for Peltier's arrest. In June 2017, Peltier, with counsel, moved to dismiss the state court proceeding under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and to enjoin the State from withholding, restricting, or suspending his driver's license. Peltier's affidavit in support of his motion stated he was an enrolled member of the Crow Nation and was eligible for enrollment with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and he knew Breland was an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and she has continuously resided on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation since the child was conceived in 2007. According to Peltier, he had lived on tribal trust land within the exterior boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation before the child was conceived in 2007, and he worked on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation from 2006 to 2015 but he always returned to his permanent home on tribal trust land of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Peltier's affidavit stated the child was born in 2008 in Belcourt within the exterior boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and has resided on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation his entire life. According to Peltier, the child is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and is eligible for enrollment with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

         [¶ 8] The district court denied Peltier's motion to dismiss the child support proceeding for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, stating Peltier, Breland, and the child were not enrolled members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the exercise of state court jurisdiction in this action would not infringe on the Turtle Mountain Band's tribal sovereignty. Relying on Roe v. Doe, 2002 ND 136, 649 N.W.2d 566, the district ...


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