2015 ICWA Appellate Cases by the Numbers

While a few cases might yet come in, we have our final list of 2015 appealed ICWA cases sorted. A note on the data–these are cases that are on Westlaw, and mentioned ICWA. If you know we are missing a case based on the numbers, *please* let me know so we can add it. We collect the case name, the date, the court, the state, whether the case is reported or not, the top two issues, up to three named tribes, the outcome of the case, and who appealed the case. These are standard state court ICWA cases, and do not include any of the ongoing federal litigation.

There were 201 ICWA cases in 2015. 35 of them were reported. As usual, California has the most number of cases, with 156 (146 unreported).The next highest state was Michigan, with 7 cases (3 unreported), Alaska with 6 (3 unreported), Arizona with 5 (4 unreported). The rest, with 2 reported are Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Washington.

With 1 reported are Alabama, Arkansas, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, and Wyoming.

California further breaks down with the highest number of cases (57) in the 2nd Appellate District (which includes L.A. County), followed by 33 in the 4th, 29 in the 1st, 16 in the 3rd, 15 in the 5th, and 6 in the 6th. Only the 2nd and 4th reported out any cases.

Supreme Courts in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming all heard ICWA cases. 98 of the 201 total cases were affirmed, 82 remanded (nearly all California notice cases), 5 dismissed, and 16 reversed.

The top issues in reported cases break down as follows: Notice (13), Determination of Indian Child (5), Active Efforts (4), Qualified Expert Witness (4), and Placement Preferences (3), Inquiry (1), Transfer to Tribal Court (1).

70 different tribes were represented in the cases, which include any time a parent claims tribal affiliation of any sort (so Cherokee has 58 of the 203 total cases as first tribe claimed, 21 as second tribe claimed and 5 as third, for a total of 84). In 31 cases, the tribe was unknown, in 4 the tribe was unnamed by the court. For those 31, 25 of the cases dealt with a lack of inquiry and/or notice.

Finally, of the 35 reported cases, mother appealed 15, father 10, both parents 4, tribe 4, and GAL 1.