Here is the opinion in Native Village of Tununak v. State, Dep’t of Health & Social Services, Office of Children’s Services (Alaska).
We asked the parties to provide supplemental briefing and oral argument on the effect of the Supreme Court’s Baby Girl decision on the adoption appeal currently before us.26 We now hold that because the United States Supreme Court’s decisions on issues of federal law bind state courts’ consideration of federal law issues — including the Indian Child Welfare Act — the decision in Baby Girl applies directly to the adoptive placement case on remand and to this adoption appeal. We discern no material factual differences between the Baby Girl case and this case, so we are unable to distinguish the holding in Baby Girl. Because the Supreme Court’s holding in Baby Girl is clear and not qualified in any material way, and because it is undisputed that Elise did not “formally [seek] to adopt” Dawn in the superior court, we conclude that, as in Baby Girl, “there simply is no ‘preference’ to apply[,] [as] no alternative party that is eligible to be preferred under § 1915(a) has come forward[,]” and therefore ICWA “§ 1915(a)’s [placement] preferences are inapplicable.”27 We affirm the superior court’s order granting the Smiths’ petition to adopt Dawn and vacate our remand order in Tununak I requiring the superior court to conduct further adoptive placement proceedings. We do not otherwise disturb our decision in Tununak I.
We posted briefs here.