Advocacy Journalism - justice for Jawnie Hough

A terrible saga for Jawnie Hough
December 7, 2001



from the

     Native American Press/Ojibwe News

Seeks to regain custody previously granted by dissolution order

by Jean Pagano

The matter of Jawnie Hough and her daughter Mehgan was once again in front of Beltrami County Judge Terrance Holter on Monday December 3rd. Ms. Hough is asking the court to amend its previous denial of Hough's Motion to Vacate.

As previously reported in PRESS/ON, Jawnie Hough was granted custody of her 4 year old daughter in June 1999 divorce from an abusive relationship with Donald Brun, Jr., of Red Lake. Hough lost custody of her daughter, Mahgan, when her former inlaws failed to return the girl from a visit to their Bemidji home in March 2000. Jawnie Hough maintained that she never received notification of the May 9, 2000 Red Lake hearing nor was she informed of the outcome. Tribal judge Dan Charnoski awarded custody to Geraldine and Donald Brun, Sr. and the father Donald Brun, Jr. on May 22 based in part upon conversations that Donald Brun, Jr. reported having with Hough. Jawnie Hough was not present at the hearing.

When Hough took back her daughter in June of 2000, the Bruns reported the incident to the Bemidji police as a kidnapping, even though Hough still had legal custody under state law. A comity hearing was held on June 16, 2000, in which Judge Holter granted the application for comity, though Hough later claimed she did not receive the court order.

On January 10th of this year, the child was taken from her distraught mother after being spotted at the Fairview University Medical Center. Hough was subsequently charged with felony child abduction.

Hough's Motion to Amend is an attempt to get Judge Holter to rescind his previous denial of Hough's Motion to Vacate. In the the Motion to Amend, Hough maintains that she has been the primary caretaker for most of the child's life since the father never paid support and that she is being denied visitation rights for her child. She further claims that her ex-husband and his parents did conceal the child from the rightful custodian, namely herself, and then used the Red Lake Court to grant custody to Donald Brun, Jr, in a default judgment. The judgment was issued in default because Hough claims to have never received proper notice from the tribal court.

Jawnie Hough further tried to petition the Red Lake Court by a Red Lake Lay Counsel to seek visitation, but was informed that the Court would not hear the matter. A Red Lake Civil Summons was issued in the matter of visitation against Donald Brun, Jr. on June 28th, 2001 but was not served on him until November 12th, 2001.

Hough is asking the court to vacate the previous Court Orders of October 3, 2001 and June 19, 2000. She is claiming that since she was not given proper notice that only temporary comity of the Red Lake Order should have been granted, pending a full hearing with Jawnie Hough present, based upon appropriate notice.

The Respondent's Reply to the Motion states that the mother, Hough, abandoned her child on the Red Lake Reservation. Hough has previously stated that she brought the child to Bemidji to visit the grandparents and that the grandparents brought the child to Red Lake without her knowledge or consent. The divorce decree specifically states that "supervised visitation shall be permissible when Petitioner approves of the supervisor and Petitioner can be assured that Respondent will not flee with the child to Red Lake" (emphasis added). Attorney Michael Ruffenach uses a grand portion of his reply in justifying his client's action under the guise of abandonment. Further discussion states that "counsel for the father faxed the application for comity to both legal services programs in the area before any application was made to the court ... Counsel for the father could infer that the mother might use the alternative legal services program in the area as well. Also, counsel for the father mailed the application for comity to the mother at her last known address that was available with the district court". Unfortunately, none of these locations were the legal address of the mother and she was not issued notice before the proceedings occurred. It is additionally ironic that less than a month passed in May 2000 before the Red Lake Court issued a default judgment in favor of Donald Brun, Jr., but five months pass between the time a Red Lake Civil Summons was issued and the time it was served and the Respondent still has an additional twenty days to respond.

Judge Holter listened to arguments from both sides on Monday and has taken the matter under advisement. Sadly, mother and daughter have not been allowed visitation in over 10 months. As stated in Hough Affidavit "(Hough) dearly misses her child, and has missed the child's birthday, holidays and other usual events".






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