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Estate of Ducheneaux v. Ducheneaux

Supreme Court of South Dakota

March 11, 2015

DOUGLAS DUCHENEAUX, Defendant and Appellee

Argued November 18, 2014

As Corrected May 19, 2015, May 26, 2015.



TERRY L. PECHOTA of Pechota Law Office, Rapid City, South Dakota; BRAD A. SCHREIBER of The Schreiber Law Firm, Prof LLC, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellant.

CASEY N. BRIDGMAN, CLAY A. ANDERSON of Bridgman & Anderson Law Firm, Prof LLC, Wessington Springs, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellee.

ZINTER and SEVERSON, Justices, and MYREN, Circuit Court Judge, and KONENKAMP, Retired Justice, concur. MYREN, Circuit Court Judge, sitting for WILBUR, Justice, disqualified. KERN, Justice, not having been a member of the Court at the time this action was assigned to the Court, did not participate.


Page 520

GILBERTSON, Chief Justice.

[¶1] The Estate of Wayne Kenneth Ducheneaux appeals the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court's denial of its motion for summary judgment and that court's dismissal of the Estate's action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Estate argues Wayne Ducheneaux (the Decedent) lacked the requisite mental capacity, or was unduly influenced by Douglas D. Ducheneaux (Ducheneaux), when the Decedent transferred two quarter sections of Indian trust land located in Tripp County, South Dakota, to Ducheneaux. Although the Estate acknowledged the circuit court had no authority to directly return title of the trust land to the Estate, the Estate nevertheless asserts the circuit court had personal jurisdiction over Ducheneaux and, therefore, could have compelled Ducheneaux to make application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to transfer the two quarter sections back to the Estate. We agree that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the parcels held in trust by the United States and affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] The Decedent was an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a lifelong resident of Tripp County, South Dakota. During his final years, the Decedent suffered from a number of adverse medical conditions. After suffering a fall in May 2011, the Decedent was admitted to the Winner Regional Hospital on May 18, 2011, and then transferred to the Winner Nursing Home on May 25, 2011. At this time, two of the Decedent's daughters--Darnel Swanson and Debra Calloway--jointly held power of attorney for their father. The Decedent modified his power of attorney on June 1, 2011, to include a third daughter, Dawn Daughters. The three daughters were unable to agree on a care plan for the Decedent, and after a disastrous meeting at the nursing home on June 13, 2011, the nursing home requested a guardian be appointed for the Decedent.

[¶3] Ducheneaux filed for guardianship of his father in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court on July 1, 2011. Ms. Swanson and Dana Mercer--another of the Decedent's daughters--instituted a guardianship proceeding in the same court on July 5, 2011. After the Decedent withdrew power of attorney from Ms. Swanson and Ms. Calloway on July 6, 2011, Ms. Daughters--who still had power of attorney--removed the Decedent from the nursing home on July 7, 2011. Thereafter, the Decedent resided with, and was cared for by, Ms. Daughters and Ducheneaux, the Decedent's son. The circuit court appointed Ducheneaux guardian of the Decedent and Gary Fenenga, CPA, as conservator of the Decedent. The Decedent passed away on November 18, 2011.

[¶4] Prior to his passing, the Decedent transferred three quarters of land located in Tripp County to Ducheneaux, who is also an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Tripp County lies in the diminished portion of the original Rosebud Indian Reservation. See generally

Page 521

Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Kneip, 430 U.S. 584, 97 S.Ct. 1361, 51 L.Ed.2d 660 (1977). Two of the quarters are held in trust by the United States. The Decedent transferred the first quarter[1] to Ducheneaux in July 2011, prior to Ducheneaux's appointment as guardian. The Decedent transferred the second[2] and third[3] quarters to Ducheneaux in August 2011, after Ducheneaux's appointment as the Decedent's guardian. The first parcel was owned and held by the Decedent and is not at issue in this appeal. The second parcel was held in trust by the United ...

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