--- Am. Tribal Law ----, 2019 WL 6790314 (Colville C.A.), 14 CCAR 59, 7 CTCR 37
Colville Tribal Court of Appeals.
Melissa CAMPOBASSO, Appellant,
Darren CAWSTON, Appellee,
Case No. AP17-003
Decided November 26, 2019
Trial Court Case No. CV-OC-2015-38118


Appellant filed a petition for division of property at the Trial Court on April 27, 2015. Included in the petition, and relevant to this appeal, was a 40-acre piece of real property located on the Colville Reservation. The Trial Court held a trial on the petition on August 29, 2016, and entered its order on January 17, 2017. The Trial Court awarded, among other things, the 40-acre property to Appellee. Appellant filed an Amended Notice of Appeal on February 22, 2017 challenging the award of the property, arguing Appellant was coerced to give Appellee the property through domestic violence.

This matter came before the Court for an Initial Hearing on April 21, 2017. Appellant, Melissa Campobasso, appeared in person and with counsel, Leone Reinbold. Appellee appeared through counsel, Douglas Webber. We informed the parties that the Trial Court’s Findings of Fact were inconclusive on their face, and we issued an Order to the Trial Court to file more specific findings within thirty days of our order, which we issued on April 21, 2017. We also found that but for the sole issue regarding whether Appellant was coerced to sign over the real property in question based on domestic violence, we would dismiss the appeal.

The Trial Court did not comply with this Order within the 30 days set by this Court, so we directed the parties to file briefs on the issue.1 It was learned that the Court Clerk failed to send the Trial Judge our Order to file more specific Findings of Fact. On April 5, 2018 we issued a Second Order Remanding For Findings of Fact, finding that the briefs submitted by the parties did not “shed any new light” on the sole issue of whether Appellant signed over the property in question under duress. The Trial Court did enter findings on the sole issue of whether the transfer of the property in question was done under duress by order dated April 10, 2018.

After setting out the specific facts reviewed, including the actions of Appellant in her conveyance of the property in question, the Trial Court held “[t]here is no credible evidence indicating that this conveyance was done under duress.... [I]t is this Court’s determination that Ms. Campobasso executed a valid conveyance of her one-half interest in the 40 acre allotment absent duress or undue influence.”


Did the Trial Court err in awarding real property purchased by Appellant to Appellee under the circumstances of the relationship between the parties?


The issue is one of mixed law and fact. In light of the facts at issue herein, we find it in the best interests of justice to review de novo. CCT v. Naff, 2 CCAR 50 (1995).



The sole question before us is whether the record supports a finding that the Trial Court should be reversed in its decision to award a 40-acre piece of real property on the Colville Reservation to Appellee, when it was paid for by Appellant, she alleges, under duress.

The Trial Court, by its order of April 10, 2018, has provided Findings of Fact to review regarding Appellant’s assertions that she was forced to buy the real property in question based on a domestic violence relationship with Appellee.2

From a review of the Findings of Fact, we learn that the parties were in a relationship from 2005, and started living together in Appellee’s home in 2006. In 2013 Appellant withdrew money from her retirement account and paid for the real property in question. Testimonial evidence from the Colville Tribal Realty program specialist, which was not disputed, shows that Appellant pressured the specialist to transfer the property solely into Appellee’s name.

There is documentary evidence which shows that Appellant continually assured Appellee that she wanted to give him the property with no strings attached. There is testimonial evidence from two people who observed the relationship between the parties and stated Appellant was the aggressor and Appellee the peacemaker in the relationship.

Under a de novo review we evaluate the credibility of the testimony and evidence submitted to the record, as well as the weight the credibility was given by the Trial Court. The test is whether there was a reasonable basis for the judge to make her ruling, based on the facts and the law before her, and not whether we might have ruled differently under the same circumstances. Marchand v. CCT, 8 CCAR 43 (2006). In the instant case, we find that there were sufficient facts contained in the record to support the Trial Court’s decision. We find no abuse of discretion by the Trial Judge, based on the record and law.


We hold the Trial Court’s orders of January 20, 2017 and April 10, 2018 are AFFIRMED. This appeal is DISMISSED and remanded to the Trial Court for action consistent with this Order.

All Citations
--- Am. Tribal Law ----, 2019 WL 6790314, 14 CCAR 59, 7 CTCR 37



Appellant filed a Response Brief, which was stricken as our Order of Briefing specifically stated no Reply Brief was allowed except by an Order granting a motion to be allowed to file a reply brief. This was not done by the Appellant.


After the Trial Court entered its findings on April 10, 2018, Appellant entered a notice of appearance for herself, as her attorney of record had withdrawn, and moved this Court to allow further briefing on the issue of duress based on domestic violence. We decline to entertain this motion. First, it is too late; second, Appellant, through her attorney, was already given the opportunity to brief this issue. A review of the motion and affidavit show no new arguments and includes alleged facts not in the record. We do not review new alleged facts.