Advocacy Journalism - justice for Jawnie Hough

A terrible saga for Jawnie Hough
October 26, 2001
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     Native American Press/Ojibwe News

Hough asks judge to review court-assisted abduction ruling

By Jeff Armstrong

Jawnie Hough has filed a motion asking Beltrami County district judge Terrance Holter to set aside his Oct. 3 ruling in favor of Hough's ex-husband's family, whom she alleges misused tribal and state courts to legalize the abduction of her four-year-old daughter.

"[M]y child was with me essentially every single day for 3 years until taken away by this court and given to my ex-in-laws in Red Lake, Minnesota, without my knowledge or consent," said Hough in an affidavit in support of her motion, a preliminary step toward appealing to a higher court.

Four-year-old Meghan Brun was seized from her mother Jan. 10, 2001 by University of Minnesota police at a campus hospital on the basis of a Beltrami County order enforcing a Red Lake tribal ruling. The child suffers from a serious neurological condition, compounding her mother's fears for the child's well-being and safety.

The father, Donald Brun, Jr., pled guilty to fifth degree domestic assault against Hough on April 12, 1999 for allegedly shattering the passenger window of her sister's truck and punching Hough repeatedly. The Beltrami County court granted the Leech Lake woman temporary custody of her child in an April 19, 1999 preliminary restraining order.

According to Hough's motion, Judge Holter extended the protection order on May 5, 1999 and strictly curtailed paternal visitation rights to prevent the very circumstances which were to follow:

"The Court would like to order some visitation for the respondent, but [the Court] is afraid that if respondent chooses to take the child and flee to the Red Lake Reservation, petitioner will be unable to secure [the child's] return. At this time the only visitation permissible is supervised with someone who petitioner approves of."

Awarding physical custody of the child to Hough in a June 14, 1999 decision, Holter took care to require that "Neither party shall remove the minor child of the parties from the State of Minnesota for the purpose of changing her place of residence without the written consent of the other party."

Hough's recent motion alleges Donald Brun, Jr. and his parents "held the subject child on Red Lake Reservation, aided and abetted by his parents, against the primary custodial parent's intentions and known wishes, and subsequently obtained a Red Lake Tribal Court Order, in violation of this Court's then existing order."

Although Brun raised the issue of the Red Lake ruling through the divorce case file, Hough contends that Holter failed to properly consider his prior deliberations or to require that the mother be given notice of the hearing.

"[T]he Order of October 3, 2001 clearly remarks that '[m]erely disliking the first forum addressing the issue of custody and choosing to disregard proceedings in this court concerning the issue is insufficient to vacte[,]' which is in fact what Respondent has done by filing for custody in Red Lake to circumvent and reverse the custody determinations of this court, the first forum, by using a foreign forum, place and time which greatly favored Respondent," states Hough in her brief.

In his successful brief opposing Hough's initial motion to vacate Holter's comity ruling, attorney for the Bruns Michael Ruffenach argued that the state had jurisdiction to issue the enforcement ruling but not to reconsider it.

"This Comity case was filed in the same file as the Dissolution of Marriage file and this Court had continuing jurisdiction over the parties and the child...[However,] [o]nce a court grants Comity to a Tribal Court Order it has no jurisdiction to un-grant it," the memorandum states.



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