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Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Co., Inc.

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

December 28, 2012

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.

Page 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,

Page 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.[1] Id.

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

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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 ...


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