Here is the unpublished opinion in In re K.P.:
Michelle T., a member of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, contends that the juvenile court violated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), title 25 United States Code section 1901 et seq. and Welfare and Institutions Code section 224 et seq. by terminating her parental rights to her children, K.P. and Kristopher P., under section 366.26.
Throughout most of their dependency cases, K.P. and Kristopher were eligible for membership, or were enrolled, in the Pala Band of Mission Indians (Pala Band). At the children’s first section 366.26 hearing, the Pala Band did not consent to the children’s adoption and the juvenile court ordered a plan of guardianship. Several years later, when the children’s cases proceeded to a second section 366.26 hearing, the juvenile court learned that the Pala Band of Mission Indians had disenrolled K.P. and Kristopher, and others, on the ground that they lacked the blood quantum necessary for membership.Michelle argues that in view of a pending appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit challenging the validity of the Pala Band’s enrollment ordinance that resulted in the disenrollment of K.P. and Kristopher and the others, the juvenile court erred when it found that K.P. and Kristopher were not Indian children within the meaning of the ICWA and declined to apply ICWA’s substantive and procedural protections at the children’s second section 366.26 hearings. Michelle also argues that enrollment in a tribe is not required to be considered an Indian child, and that the Pala Band did not provide written confirmation that enrollment is a prerequisite for Pala Band membership.
We conclude that the juvenile court correctly ruled that the Indian tribe has the sole authority to determine its own membership and that the juvenile court must defer to the membership decisions of an Indian tribe. Under federal and state law, the Indian tribe’s membership determination is conclusive. The record shows that enrollment is a prerequisite for Pala Band membership, and that the Pala Band determined that K.P. and Kristopher are not members of its tribe. Therefore, the juvenile court did not err when it determined that K.P. and Kristopher are not Indian children within the meaning of the ICWA and terminated parental rights without applying ICWA’s heightened substantive and procedural protections. We affirm.