Hon. Steve Hager Passes

Because honestly it was just too much to post about both Judge White and Judge Hager on the same day.

He always wanted to stop and talk about ICWA with me, and I was lucky for that.


NAICJA’s Statement:

The National American Indian Court Judges Association is heartbroken to announce the death of Judge C. Steven Hager, Board of Directors Region 1. Judge Hager served as an elected board member since 2017. Judge Hager was the Chief Judge for the Kickapoo Nation in Kansas and served on the Supreme Court for the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma. During his tenure on the Board of Directors, Judge Hager was an invaluable resource to our Tribal Civil and Criminal Legal Assistance Project and thoughtful jurist who helped shape NAICJA’s goals and visions.Judge Hager was a Senior Attorney at Oklahoma Indian Legal Services for over 30 years. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law, teaching in the Masters of Law and L.L.M. programs. Judge Hager was also on the board of the Kansas Tribal-State Judicial Committee.

“Steve was a dedicated judge and member of our community who we will miss dearly,” stated President Richard Blake. His good friend and long-time colleague, Judge Greg Bigler, recalled, “Steve Hager was a great friend, and he was a pleasure to watch in court. We never knew if he would be at tribal court with some interns from OILS, or on his own. He was generous with his time and great legal knowledge to those in training. In court, I always knew when he stood up and started to take off his glasses that he was about to make a well taken point. It was usually about the law or concern over his juvenile clients, but it could also be a dry humorous comment about the current state of affairs we all suffered. He will be missed by the courts he practiced in, because he was a unique and talented friend. We could use more judges and lawyers with his dedication, caring, and spirit that could brighten any room. Steve would also want everyone to know that he always wanted to be a lumberjack.”NAICJA sends condolences to his wife, son, family and the communities where he served and practiced.

Hon. Claudette White Walks On


Words I’ve seen describing Claudette this week: a leader, a good good person, a force, a problem solver, a giant for tribal courts, a kind judge, a fighter, a singer, a dancer, a dear friend, a sister, a mom. She was all that and more, and we are heartbroken to lose her.

Here (starting at 1:21) she is kicking off the Inauguration.

Here is the documentary Tribal Justice with her and Judge Abinanti.

Here is the announcement from the National American Indian Court Judges Association: Claudette White Announcement

Trauma Informed Benchbook from St. Paul Tribal Court

From the inimitable Judge Voluck:

The recent St. Paul Island project – Tanaam Awaa:  ‘Our Community’s Work’ Trauma-Informed Benchbook for Tribal Justice Systems is better in hand … with that said the Tribe has produced a digital version for free download on their Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government website.

Now he says “Free” but go ahead and donate some dollars if you can to keep up this good work.

Downloadable here.

Kansas Indian Law CLE January 29

Here is the announcement.

Not to be too promotional, but they got three pretty solid presenters (no manel here!) for this CLE: 

Working for Tribal Clients – Ethics
An overview of ethical responsibilities and obligations of legal practitioners who represent tribal clients, including tribal nations, tribal organizations and tribal members. (1.0 Ethics CLE)
Presented by: Vivien Olsen, Managing Attorney for the Legal Assistance to Victims program of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
Indian Child Welfare Act: Litigation and Legislation
Are you familiar with ICWA (1978)? Any attorney practicing in family law or child-related cases will benefit from this session where Professor Kate Fort will review ICWA and key cases from 2019 and 2020, including recent state legislation and court rules adopted to protect ICWA. (1.0 General CLE)
Presenter: Professor Kate Fort, Michigan State University, Indian Law Clinic
The Violence Against Women Act & the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Crisis
4 in 5 Indigenous women will experience violence in their lifetimes. – National Institute of Justice Report
This session will discuss the re-authorization of VAWA efforts over the past two years and will discuss the most recent efforts to pass legislation that will address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous Persons in the United States. (1.0 General CLE)
Presented by: Mary Kathryn Nagle, member of Cherokee Nation, partner at Pipestem Law PC

California Inquiry and Notice Case [ICWA]

Ok, remember when I said this morning the California inquiry and notice process is in a . . . growth process? Here is another example. This case disagrees with the really not great In re Austin J. case and is from the same appellate district

In re T.G. returns to the low bar for notice and inquiry California appellate courts have traditionally adhered to. 

We agree the Department failed to adequately investigate Tamara’s claim of Indian ancestry and the juvenile court failed to ensure an appropriate inquiry had been conducted before concluding, if it ever actually did, ICWA did not apply to these proceedings. In reaching this result, we disagree with the holding in In re Austin J. (2020) 47 Cal.App.5th 870, 888-889 (Austin J.) that amendments enacted by Assembly Bill No. 3176 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.) (Assembly Bill 3176) were intended to limit the Department’s robust duty of inquiry. Accordingly, we conditionally reverse the orders for legal guardianship and remand the matters to allow the Department and the juvenile court to rectify their errors and to take all other necessary corrective actions.

So again, if you are practicing in California, this is a vital area to be following. If you are not practicing in California, I think it’s worth seeing how the new changes to the state laws shake out on appeals this year (2021). If you are a tribal attorney, know that California is supposed to be contacting a tribe very early in the proceedings, even if it is not with a formal notice packet. 

Application of ICWA Case out of Arkansas Court of Appeals

This is an interesting and frustration case on the law. There are a few states, and I believe both Arkansas and Missouri are two, where a parent has to preserve any ICWA issue for appeal. That is not the case in a number of other states. But in this case, the agency and state attorney agree there was error in not noticing the Tribe (Klamath) on the TPR, and that this failure could upend any permanency findings under 25 U.S.C. 1914. They ask the court to remand for notice. However, the Court held:

Accordingly, we cannot rely on Dominguez to remand in this instance. Unlike the situation in Dominguez, the final order herein terminated both parents’ rights, leaving no parental right unaddressed. Here, the application of the ICWA cannot be addressed on remand without reversing the circuit court’s TPR order. We hold that the ICWA issue is not preserved for appellate review.

Adjudication orders are immediately appealable. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(a)(1)(A) (2019). A parent’s failure to appeal rulings made in an adjudication order precludes appellate review of those findings in an appeal from a subsequent order. Ashcroft v. Ark. Dep’t of Human Servs., 2010 Ark. App. 244, at 8, 374 S.W.3d 743, 747. No party appealed the circuit court’s findings that the ICWA did not apply or that neither Amanda nor A.W. were members of an Indian tribe. Further, we have held that compliance with the notice requirements of the ICWA must be raised below in order to be preserved for appellate review. Lauman v. Ark. Dep’t of Human Servs., 2010 Ark. App. 564, at 2.

I’m also just going to leave the facts here about the ruling, re. application of ICWA:

The court noted that Amanda had provided a roll number for the Klamath Modoc tribe at the probable-cause hearing, that the Klamath Modoc tribe had been notified on February 12, and that the tribe had not responded nor contacted DHS; therefore, the court found that “at this time,” the ICWA “does not apply.” In a separate finding, the circuit court stated, “[Amanda] does not have membership in or descent from an Indian tribe; the legal father does not have membership in or descent from an Indian tribe; the juvenile does not have membership in or descent from an Indian tribe.”