Advocacy Journalism - justice for Jawnie Hough

A terrible saga for Jawnie Hough
August 8, 2003
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from the

     Native American Press/Ojibwe News

State district court rejects stay of Hough custody order

by Jeff Armstrong

Beltrami County district judge Terrance Holter denied a motion by a Red Lake man to refrain from enforcing a child custody decision issued last year while the state appeals court considers his jurisdictional challenge to the state court order. In his July 29 order, Holter ruled that Donald Brun, Jr.'s defiance of previous court decisions weighed against his efforts to force reconsideration by the district court.

"Respondent (Brun) has failed to obey all orders of this Court. Now Respondent seeks an order of this Court to stay all other orders pending the decision of the Court of Appeals...To come now to this Court and request an order when Respondent will only obey it if it is favorable to him is absurd," judge Holter wrote.

Holter further took the rare step of criticizing Brun's attorney, Lawrence Nichols, for delaying his motion until Hough had regained physical custody of the child more than one year after Brun was ordered to return Meghan Brun to her mother, Jawnie Hough.

"It would appear that Respondent's attorney has similar contemptuous behavior toward this Court by failing to file the Writ until the child was returned to her mother as per the order of this Court," wrote Holter.

Holter ruled that his previous orders were "valid and enforceable" and ordered that Brun take no action "to disturb the custody of the child." The district court, however, declined a motion by Hough to impose civil and criminal contempt penalties against Brun, including restitution of Hough's legal costs and jailing the Red Lake man, unless he again violated state court rulings.

Brun and his parents had obtained custody of the child by refusing to return the child from a March 2000 visit agreed to by Hough. The Bruns subsequently petitioned the Red Lake Court for custody without notifying Hough of the proceedings nor informing the tribal court of the contrary state court order.

After Hough recovered her daughter outside a Bemidji barber shop, she was charged with parental abduction on the basis of legal actions of which she was never informed, while Meghan was returned to the Bruns. In his latest motion, Brun continues to advance the deception that Hough had abandoned the child--without accounting for the fact that she had subsequently gone to great lengths to regain physical and legal custody of the girl.

In her affidavit, Hough alleged that her daughter had been subjected by Brun's parents to "continuous, psychological brainwashing" against her mother, jeopardizing the girl's emotional and physical well-being. She charged that Meghan "was instructed by the non-party grandparents to jump from my moving vehicle if necessary, if and when I was able to recover her."

Hough pleaded with the court to sanction Brun for his misconduct in order to protect the girl against further unlawful action.

"I now must live with the fear that Respondent or his non-party grandparents will again resort to illegal conduct, including kidnapping, to have their way and my child," wrote Hough.

In the end, the district court ruled, the ultimate decision of the child's best interests was clear from the record before the court.

"However, despite the contemptuous behavior of Respondent and his attorney, the issue here is what is in the best interest of the child pending the Court of Appeals' decision. The child's stability at home has been disrupted by returning her to her mother; however, the danger to the child of not being returned to her mother, if the Minnesota Court of Appeals so determines, far exceeds the disruption in her life pending the appeal... The best interest of the child is to remain with her mother pending the decision of the Court of Appeals," wrote Holter.


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