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Neiffer v. Koppenstein

Supreme Court of Montana

March 28, 2017

LARRY NEIFFER and DUANE NEIFFER, Plaintiffs and Appellees,

          Submitted on Briefs: March 1, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Seventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Dawson, Cause No. DV-14-049 Honorable David Cybulski, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellants: Carol J. and Christian Koppenstein (Self-Represented), Carlsbad, New Mexico.

          For Appellees: W. Anderson Forsythe, Moulton Bellingham PC, Billings, Montana.


          Mike McGrath Chief Justice.

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Carol Koppenstein appeals from the District Court's judgments in favor of plaintiffs Larry and Duane Neiffer. We affirm. The issue on appeal is whether the District Court properly entered judgment against Koppenstein.

         ¶3 The parties are all siblings, and their parents operated a farm near Glendive, Montana. The parents divided their real property into three parcels and established two trusts intended to pass portions of the family farm to each of the siblings upon the parents' deaths. A 1991 trust held the property intended for Larry and Duane, while a 1993 trust held property intended for Carol. The siblings' father died in 1995 and their mother died in 2010.

         ¶4 Carol obtained her property pursuant to the 1993 trust. However, since that time she has attempted to establish control over the property that her parents left to her brothers Larry and Duane. She declared herself to be the "Successor Co-Trustee to Almeta Neiffer, Trustor Settlor of the Jacob and Almeta Neiffer Revocable Living Trust" and claims that her self-declared status gives her control over the property that their parents left to Larry and Duane. Carol makes these declarations despite the fact, as the District Court found, that there is no basis in fact or law for her position.

         ¶5 Carol filed a series of pro se lawsuits against her brothers and others whom she accused of interfering with her efforts to control her brothers' lands. She made threats and filed liens against persons whom she believed opposed her claims, and she filed deeds with the Dawson County Clerk and Recorder purporting to transfer her brothers' land to herself and her husband. She made embezzlement accusations against the tenants who leased her brothers' croplands and sued them, driving them off the property and out of farming. She then leased her brothers' cropland to other tenants and collected the rents. She has not prevailed in any of her legal claims. In a separate action the District Court consolidated most of her dozen or more lawsuits and dismissed them.

         ¶6 Larry and Duane brought the present action against Carol to quiet title to the land their parents left to them and to enjoin her from interfering with their use and enjoyment.[1]The District Court granted summary judgment to the brothers, quieting their title to the property and enjoining Carol from further interference. Thereafter the District Court conducted a bench trial on the brothers' claims for damages, subsequently entering judgments in their favor for quiet title, damages, costs and attorney fees. The District Court also affirmed a finding from a prior case that Carol was a vexations litigant and enjoined her from filing any further actions without prior court approval.

         ¶7 Carol's briefs on appeal consist of extended streams of consciousness about the wrongs she alleges to have suffered at the hands of numerous individuals, judges, attorneys, and public employees. These accusations sometimes go back to events that happened several decades ago. Her belief or theory that she should control her brothers' property is not supported by any facts or by any rational argument. She has not shown any support for her contention that the District Court's decisions in this case should be reversed. We therefore affirm the District Court in all orders and judgments entered in this case.

         ¶8 M. R. App. P. 19(3)(a) provides that the brothers are entitled to their costs on appeal as the prevailing parties. In addition, M. R. App. P. 19(5) provides that this Court may award sanctions in an appeal that is "determined to be frivolous, vexatious, filed for purposes of harassment or delay, or taken without substantial or reasonable grounds." We determine that this is such a case.

         ¶9 The District Court adopted the finding in a prior action declaring Carol to be a vexations litigant. In the present case, the District Court commented upon ...

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