State district court
rejects stay of Hough custody order
by Jeff Armstrong
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 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
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.