Justia Native American Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate Law
Leisnoi, Inc. v. Merdes & Merdes, P.C.
Leisnoi, Inc. retained the law firm of Merdes & Merdes to represent it in litigation against Omar Stratman over its certification of and title to certain lands Leisnoi claimed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Leisnoi and Merdes entered a contingency fee agreement under which, if Leisnoi was successful, Merdes would receive an interest in the lands Leisnoi obtained or retained. The case was resolved in 1992 in favor of Leisnoi, although Stratman appealed and the related litigation continued for another decade. In October 2008, the Stratman litigation finally concluded in Leisnoi's favor. The following year, Merdes moved the superior court to issue a writ of execution. Leisnoi opposed the motion, arguing among other things that the judgment was void under 43 U.S.C. 1621(a)'s restrictions on contingency fee contracts involving Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act lands. In January 2010, the Superior Court issued an order denying Leisnoi's motion and granting Merdes's motion to execute. Six months later, Leisnoi paid Merdes the remaining balance. Leisnoi then appealed the superior court's ruling. The issue before the Supreme Court concerned questions of waiver and whether the superior court's judgment was void or voidable. Upon review of the matter, the Court concluded: (1) Leisnoi did not waive its right to appeal by paying Merdes the balance due on the judgment; (2) an Arbitration Panel's fee award and the superior court's 1995 entry of judgment violated 43 U.S.C. 1621(a)'s prohibition against attorney contingency fee contracts based on the value of Native lands that were subject to the Act; (3) the superior court's 2010 order granting Merdes's motion to execute on the 1995 judgment separately violated the Act's prohibition against executing on judgments arising from prohibited attorney contingency fee contracts; (4) notwithstanding the illegality of the Arbitration Panel fee award and the 1995 judgment, Leisnoi was not entitled to relief pursuant to Civil Rule 60(b) (the 1995 order was voidable rather than void for purposes of Civil Rule 60(b), and therefore not subject to attack under Civil Rule 60(b)(4)); and (5) Leisnoi was not entitled to relief under Civil Rule 60(b)(5) or 60(b)(6). Accordingly, Merdes was ordered to return Leisnoi's payment of the balance on the judgment, but Leisnoi was not entitled to recover payments made prior to the issuance of the writ of execution. View "Leisnoi, Inc. v. Merdes & Merdes, P.C." on Justia Law
McGuire v. Aberle
In 1967, Raymond and Margaret Becker's eight child inherited an undivided one-eighth interest in patented fee land located within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. None of the Beckers were Indians. In 2006, one of the Becker children sold her interest to Patrick and Carletta Aberle. Patrick was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Carletta was a non-Indian. Due to certain conveyances, Patrick and Carletta each owned an undivided one-sixteenth interest in the property. The Becker children later commenced this action seeking a sale of the entire property. The Aberles counterclaimed for partition. Patrick also contended that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute because he was a member of the Tribe, which had jurisdiction. The circuit court ordered a sale of the entire property, concluding that state jurisdiction did not infringe upon tribal sovereignty. In considering the state-tribal jurisdiction issue, the Supreme Court noted that a determination of the disputed land's alienability was necessary. The Court then remanded the matter to the circuit court to reconsider the jurisdiction question after further development of a factual record and consideration of land alienation cases.View "McGuire v. Aberle" on Justia Law
Gustafson v. Poitra
Defendant Linus Poitra appealed a default judgment entered by the district court regarding a lease between Plaintiff Darrel Gustafson as lessee and Leon and Linus Poitra as lessors. Linus Poitra argued the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to enter the default judgment because the Poitras were members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and the land subject to the lease is Indian-owned fee land located within the boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. Linus Poitra argued the default judgment infringed upon tribal sovereignty because of cases pending in the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court. Upon review of the applicable legal authority and the evidence presented at trial, the Supreme Court vacated the default judgment finding that the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the lease.View "Gustafson v. Poitra" on Justia Law