Improper Removal Case out of Washington Court of Appeals [ICWA]

Today I received a call that went something approximately like this:

Caller: “So with [25 U.S.C.] 1920 …”

Me: “Right, 1922, go on.”

Caller: “Um, ok, so with 1920 . . .”

Me: “I think you mean 1922?”

Caller: “I think I mean 1920?”

Reader, she absolutely meant 25 U.S.C. 1920, and also had the patience to hang in there with me and tell me about the following case:

Here is an opinion from the Washington Court of Appeals decided in January and published in April that I completely missed and is also the only and first case I’ve encountered in five years of reading (nearly) every ICWA case where the court used 25 U.S.C. 1920:

¶30 Both ICWA and WICWA have provisions for the appropriate remedy when an Indian child is improperly removed by the State from his or her home or the State improperly maintains custody. Under ICWA,

[w]here any petitioner in an Indian child custody proceeding before a State court has improperly removed the child from custody of the parent or Indian custodian or has improperly retained custody after a visit or other temporary relinquishment of custody, the court shall decline jurisdiction over such petition and shall forthwith return the child to his parent or Indian custodian unless returning the child to his parent or custodian would subject the child to a substantial and immediate danger or threat of such danger.

25 U.S.C. § 1920. Similarly, under WICWA,
[i]f a petitioner in a child custody proceeding under this chapter has improperly removed the child from the custody of the parent or Indian custodian or has improperly retained custody after a visit or other temporary relinquishment of custody, the court shall decline jurisdiction over the petition and shall immediately return the child to the child’s parent or Indian custodian unless returning the child to the parent or Indian custodian would subject the child to substantial and immediate danger or threat of such danger.

RCW 13.38.160.

¶31 Here, the Department has improperly maintained A.L.C’s placement in out-of-home care because the Department has failed to provide active efforts to prevent the breakup of the Indian family. The appropriate remedy is the remedy prescribed by statute. Thus, we remand to the juvenile court to either immediately return A.L.C. or make the statutorily required finding that returning A.L.C. will subject her to substantial and immediate danger or threat of such danger.

Emphasis added.