United States District Court, E.D. California
MORRISON C. ENGLAND JUDGE.
this lawsuit, Plaintiffs Efrim and Talisha Renteria
(“Plaintiffs”) seek to overturn a ruling by the
Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians Tribal Court’s
ruling which appoints Defendant Regina Cuellar as the legal
guardian of Plaintiffs’ three nieces. Their Complaint
attacks the Tribal Court’s jurisdiction over the
custody proceedings in the first instance, and further
alleges that the Tribal Court custody proceedings violated
Plaintiffs’ right to due process under the Fourteenth
Amendment. Plaintiffs filed an Application for a Temporary
Restraining Order concurrently with their Complaint. ECF No.
8. Their Application seeks to enjoin the enforcement of the
Tribal Court’s order during the pendency of this
action. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs’
Application is GRANTED.
are the maternal great aunt and uncle of three young girls
(“AC (older), ” “AC (younger), ”
“NC, ” and, collectively, “Minors”).
The Minors’ parents were killed in a car accident on
December 17, 2015. Their late father was a member of the
Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians ("Tribe"), a
federally recognized Indian tribe, but the Minors resided and
were domiciled with their parents in Visalia, California.
They have never resided or been domiciled on tribal lands.
Until the death or their parents, the Minors have had little
contact with their paternal family and almost no contact with
cared for the Minors in the weeks following the accident. On
January 5, 2016, members of the children's paternal
family appeared at Plaintiffs' house in Visalia, thrust a
copy of an emergency order issued by the Tribal Court of the
Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (“Tribal
Court”) into Plaintiffs' hands, and forcibly
removed AC (younger) and NC. On January 22, 2016, the Tribal
Court held a review hearing regarding guardianship, appointed
Plaintiffs as temporary guardians for the Minors, and
established a schedule of visitations for the paternal
in February 2016, the two older children repeatedly reported
that their paternal step-grandfather (“Joseph”)
was sexually abusing them during their visits.Plaintiffs
reported the abuse to the Visalia Police Department and the
Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency. In the days
that followed Plaintiffs' initial police report, the
children were interviewed outside of Plaintiffs' presence
on three separate occasions by social workers with no
connection to the family. The two older children continued to
report instances of sexual abuse by Joseph to these social
workers. After Plaintiffs made these reports, the Tribal
Court modified the visitation order such that Joseph was not
to have access to the minors.
3, 2016, the Tribal Court appointed Defendant Regina Cuellar
as the Minors’ guardian effective June 12, 2016. At the
same time, the Tribal Court issued a visitation order that
failed to restrict Joseph’s access to the Minors. The
Minors then went for visitation with Defendant Regina Cuellar
on June 4 and 5.
failure to restrict Joseph’s access to the Minors
during this visit resulted in yet another instance of alleged
sexual abuse. Specifically, when the Minors returned to
Plaintiffs’ home on the evening of June 5, AC (older)
reported an additional instance of sexually abusive behavior
by Joseph. Plaintiffs declined to give custody of the Minors
to the paternal family on June 12, and caused a “Good
Cause” Report to be filed with the Tulare County
District Attorney. Plaintiffs are currently proceeding with a
Petition Re Good Cause under California Penal Code section
278.7 and California Family Code section 3041 to retain
temporary guardianship of the three minor children in Tulare
County Superior Court.
filed this action on July 21, 2016 seeking injunctive relief
and a declaration that the Tribal Court lacks jurisdiction in
the guardianship proceedings and that the June 3, 2016
proceedings, which resulted in the appointment of Ms. Cuellar
as guardian, violated Plaintiffs’ due process rights.
purpose of a temporary restraining order is to preserve the
status quo pending the complete briefing and thorough
consideration contemplated by full proceedings pursuant to a
preliminary injunction. See Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v.
Teamsters, 415 U.S. 423, 438-39 (1974) (temporary
restraining orders “should be restricted to serving
their underlying purpose of preserving the status quo and
preventing irreparable harm just so long as is necessary to
hold a hearing, and no longer”); see also Reno Air
Racing Ass’n., Inc. v. McCord, 452 F.3d 1126, 1131
(9th Cir. 2006); Dunn v. Cate, No. CIV 08-873-NVW,
2010 WL 1558562, at *1 (E.D. Cal. April 19, 2010).
of a temporary restraining order, as a form of preliminary
injunctive relief, is an extraordinary remedy, and Plaintiffs
have the burden of proving the propriety of such a remedy.
See Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997).
In general, the showing required for a temporary restraining
order and a preliminary injunction are the same.
Stuhlbarg Int’l Sales Co., Inc. v. John D. Brush
& Co., Inc., 240 F.3d 832, 839 n.7 (9th Cir. 2001).
party requesting preliminary injunctive relief must show that
“he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is
likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of
preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his
favor, and that an injunction is in the public
interest.” Winter v. Natural Resources Defense
Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); Stormans, Inc. v.
Selecky, 586 F.3d 1109, 1127 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Winter). The propriety of a TRO hinges on a
significant threat of irreparable injury that must be
imminent in nature. Caribbean Marine Serv. Co. v.
Baldridge, 844 F.2d 668, 674 (9th Cir. 1988).
under the so-called sliding scale approach, as long as the
Plaintiffs demonstrate the requisite likelihood of
irreparable harm and show that an injunction is in the public
interest, a preliminary injunction can still issue so long as
serious questions going to the merits are raised and the
balance of hardships tips sharply in Plaintiffs’ favor.
Alliance for Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d
1127, 1131-36 (9th Cir. 2011) (concluding that the