Eighth Circuit Decision Upholding Tribal Jurisdiction in Watso v. Piper [ICWA, PL 280]]

Decision here.

This settles a long running string of cases out of the Minnesota federal courts in which the non-Indian parents of tribal member children argued there was no tribal jurisdiction over their children when they lived on the tribal reservation due to ICWA and PL 280.

ICWA holding:

Watso and Dietrich believe this provision means that “the tribe does not have jurisdiction over a child held by the state until the state court transfers jurisdiction to the tribe, which can only occur after a state court ICWA hearing.” To the contrary, § 1911(b) does not require a state court hearing. Section 1911(b) addresses the transfer of proceedings from state court to tribal court. Here, there were no state court proceedings. There was no transfer from state court to tribal court. Section 1911(b) does not apply.

PL 280 holding:

Public Law 280 does not require a state court hearing or any state court proceedings. See Walker v. Rushing, 898 F.2d 672, 675 (8th Cir. 1990) (“Nothing in the wording of Public Law 280 or its legislative history precludes concurrent tribal authority.”); Doe v. Mann, 415 F.3d 1038, 1063 n. 32 (9th Cir. 2005) (“Public Law 280 states have only concurrent jurisdiction with the tribes over child custody proceedings involving Indian children.”), citing Native Village of Venetie I.R.A. Council v. State of Alaska, 944 F.2d 548, 562, 559–62 (9th Cir. 1991) (rejecting argument that Public Law 280 vested enumerated states with exclusive jurisdiction). The SMSC Court’s jurisdiction over C.P. and C.H.’s child custody proceedings is consistent with Public Law 280.

And a succinct due process holding:

Lastly, Watso and Dietrich allege that the absence of a state court proceeding violated their due process rights, based on parents’ fundamental right “to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 66 (2000) (invalidating state law that allowed any third party to petition state courts for child visitation rights over parental objections). They allege due process rights “to object and to stop the transfer, a right to notice and a right to a meaningful court hearing.” Watso and Dietrich had sufficient notice of the tribal court proceedings. They were heard in tribal court. They have presented no evidence of a due process violation.

This entry was posted in Author: Kate E. Fort, Child Welfare, tribal courts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.