Arizona Court of Appeals on Notice [ICWA]

1 CA-SA 22-0076 Tohono v. Hon Fridlund SQ – Opinion

Under Arizona law, tribes shall receive notice in voluntary proceedings:

Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-535(A) provides that after a petition for termination of the parent-child relationship has been filed, “notice of the initial hearing and a copy of the petition shall be given to . . . the tribe of any Indian child as defined by [ICWA].” The statute does not limit the notice requirement to involuntary proceedings.

***

Because neither A.R.S. § 8-535 nor the Arizona Rules of Juvenile Procedure limit an Indian tribe’s right to notice or intervention solely to involuntary parental terminations, those tribal rights extend to voluntary termination proceedings. Since the Nation was not provided notice of the initial termination proceeding, nor was it allowed to intervene, we vacate the parental termination order, grant the Nation’s motion to intervene, and remand to the superior court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion

 

Thank you to everyone who sent this to me within approximately 20 minutes of it being released.

Colorado Supreme Court On Inquiry and Notice

Unfortunately the Colorado Court did not continue its strong position on notice they had in the 2006 ex rel B.H. case.

Thus, as the divisions in A-J.A.B. and Jay.J.L. aptly noted, B.H. “required notice to tribes under a different criterion than the one in effect today.” A-J.A.B., ¶ 76, 511 P.3d at 763; Jay.J.L., ¶ 32, 514 P.3d at 319. As such, B.H. is inapposite.

¶56 In short, while assertions of a child’s Indian heritage gave a juvenile court “reason to believe” that the child was an Indian child under Colorado law in 2006, see B.H., 138 P.3d at 303–04 (emphasis added), the question we confront in this case is whether such assertions give a juvenile court “reason to know” that the child is an Indian child under Colorado law in 2022, § 19-1-126(1)(b) (emphasis added). We agree with the divisions in A-J.A.B. and Jay.J.L. that mere assertions of a child’s Indian heritage (including those that specify a tribe or multiple tribes by name), without more, are not enough to give a juvenile court reason to know that the child is an Indian child. And, correspondingly, to the extent that other divisions of the court of appeals have expressly or impliedly reached a contrary conclusion, we overrule those decisions.

Opinion Here 22SC29

The Indian Law Clinic at MSU represented the tribal amici in this case, the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian Tribes.

Washington Court of Appeals on Standard of Proof at Initial Removal

827995 orderandopinion

We also conclude that when the Department has reason to believe that a child is an Indian child under ICWA and WICWA, the heightened removal standard in those statutes applies to ex parte pick-up order requests. Because the Department had reason to know A.W. is an Indian child–information not shared with the trial court–and the trial court appliced an incorrect legal standard in assessing the Department’s evidence at that stage of the proceeding, the trial court erred in not vacating the pick up order.

Active Efforts Case out of the Colorado Supreme Court

I did not realize how far behind I was on these. Here is a case from the end of June on active efforts from the Colorado Supreme Court.

2022-21sc245

To be honest, this case holding is one that most, if not all, states have come to agreement on either in case law, state law, or state policy.

The court concludes that ICWA’s “active efforts” is a heightened standard requiring a greater degree of engagement by agencies like DHS with Native American families compared to the traditional “reasonable efforts” standard.

Qualified Expert Witness Opinion from the Alaska Supreme Court

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The question of qualified expert witness (QEW) has confounded the Alaska Court for years, and unfortunately the regulations and guidelines didn’t provide quite as much clarification as they needed. That said, this decision seems to chart a new course for the Alaska Supreme Court:

As explained further below, the superior court’s interpretation of Oliver N. was mistaken. An expert on tribal cultural practices need not testify about the causal connection between the parent’s conduct and serious damage to the child so long as there is testimony by an additional expert qualified to testify about the causal connection.

* * *

In both cases there is reason to believe cultural assumptions informed the evidence presented to some degree. Had the cultural experts had a chance to review the record — particularly the other expert testimony — they may have been able to respond to and contextualize it. For instance, Dr. Cranor emphasized attachment theory and the economic situation of the families in both cases — areas that may implicate cultural mores or biases. If the cultural experts were aware of this testimony, they could haven addressed attachment theory, economic interdependence, and housing practices in the context of prevailing tribal standards.

Washington Supreme Court Opinion on Active Efforts

Catching up on posting the summer’s reported ICWA cases, so I’m starting with this Washington Supreme Court opinion on active efforts for the initial or shelter care hear.

JMWOpinion 

We took discretionary interlocutory review of this case primarily to decide whether WICWA required the State to take active efforts to prevent the breakup of J.M.W.’s family before taking him into emergency foster care. Consistent with the plain text and purpose of WICWA, we conclude that it did. We also conclude that the trial court was required to make a finding on the record at the interim shelter care hearing that J.M.W.’s out of home placement was necessary to prevent imminent physical damage or harm. We remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

This opinion is trying to find some clarity in what ICWA standards apply when. Here are the two questions the Court sought to answer:

First, whether the department is required to make active efforts to keep an Indian child with their family under such circumstances as presented here. Second, whether the trial court was required to make a formal finding at the interim shelter care hearing that continued placement out of the home was necessary to prevent imminent physical damage or harm to the child.

The section question is essentially asking if the emergency standard of 1922 should apply whenever a child is placed out of the home and there is no 1912 (active efforts, QEW) findings. Interim shelter care hearings often happen before a jurisdictional/adjudication hearing, and can sometimes (often) extend the time before  adjudication hearing happens. In many states the 1912 findings happen either at adjudication or even after that, at the disposition hearing.

Amicus Briefs in Haaland v. Brackeen

We have a total of 21 pro-ICWA Amicus Briefs. Here they are in some rough categories and some VERY rough summaries. In writing this post, I became overwhelmed at this stunning array of briefs and support for ICWA.

Government Briefs

NARF’s Tribal Government and Organizations Brief : this brief has the sign on of nearly 500 tribes and over 60 tribal organizations. It discusses ICWA as an exercise of the trust responsibility, and the political relationship of tribes.

Congressional Brief : 87 Members of Congress signed this brief defending ICWA in the four principle arguments in the case

State AG Brief : 23 states and the District of Columbia signed on to this brief, which highlights how ICWA allows and encourages tribal-state relations in the area of child welfare.

LA County Brief : from the county counsel at the largest child welfare system in the country, it discusses the importance of ICWA to LA County practice with a focus on relocation in particular

Semi-Party Brief

Bradshaw Brief : This brief is unique in that it primarily tells the story of Robyn Bradshaw, the grandmother who adopted her granddaughter who was the subject of the claims of the Cliffords, one of the three foster family plaintiffs in the case. Because the procedural posture of the case below, the Cliffords’ narrative of facts was allowed to go unchecked throughout the life of the case until now.

How Child Welfare Works Briefs

Family Defenders : a brief from parent attorneys/family defenders in more than 8 states, this brief discusses the constitutional rights afforded to parents and families, how those intersect with the child welfare system, and the importance of ICWA in that structure. It directly addresses the arguments made by the other side regarding the child welfare system.

American Bar Association : This brief directly takes on the contention that child welfare is the sole province of the states as well as discussing the legal complexity of the child welfare system.

Casey Family Programs and 26 Other Child Welfare and Adoption Organizations : A continuation of the original, wildly successful, “gold standard” brief from Baby Girl, this brief focuses on child welfare best practices and how ICWA creates, promotes, and supports them.

National Association of Counsel for Children and 30 Other Children’s Rights Organizations : In addition to discussion the Constitutional rights of families, this brief directly addresses how ICWA supports the best interests of children in state proceedings.

Former Foster Children : One of the briefs with a particular place in my heart, this brief allowed Native youth to tell their lived experience to the Court.

How Adoption Works Brief

Non-Native Adoptive Parents : while the plaintiffs in this case were not adoptive parents, this brief directly addresses how ICWA actually works in voluntary adoptions.

Law Professor Briefs

Ablavsky Brief : The originalism brief

Administrative and Constitutional Law Professors : this brief addresses three main issues–federal power, anti-commandeering, and delegation

Indian Law Professors : this brief focuses on the exclusive power of Congress to legislate on behalf of Indians as a political class

American Historical Association : this brief provides historical context, especially around the early efforts (or lack thereof) of state child welfare systems and Native children

Medical Organizations

American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association : ICWA works directly to address the attendant physical and emotional trauma of federal and state policies designed to destroy tribal families and extended tribal networks

American Psychological Association (specifically including the associations of Texas, Louisiana, and Indianan) and the Society of Indian Psychologists : The benefits for children of being parented by Indian adults

Interest Groups

ACLU : ICWA is not a race based law

Constitutional Accountability Center : Originalism and anti-commandeering

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center : The ramifications, specifically to VAWA, if “Indian” is a racial classification

Sen. Abourezk/Lakota People’s Law Project : Passage of ICWA and issues in South Dakota

National Native Children’s Trauma Center Essays

The NNCTC is publishing a series of essays on Native child welfare, ICWA, and boarding schools. They are all available here.

In the most recent, Patrice Kunesh reflects on her own family history during this time of boarding school listening sessions and investigation by the federal government.

In January 1888, the year before North Dakota would become a state, their middle daughter Josephine, my great-aunt, was born on Battle Creek in Dakota Territory. When she was nine years old, Josephine was sent to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where she was trained in domestic skills. Upon her graduation in 1909 at the age of twenty-one, her mother Nellie presented her with a beaded valise, a small suitcase, depicting the 1863 Battle of Whitestone Hill on one side and the Lakota’s last buffalo hunt in 1882, two momentous losses of life and livelihood for the Lakota people that Nellie had witnessed.

Tribal Defendants/Intervenors Brief in Haaland v. Brackeen

Merits brief on behalf of the intervening tribes–Cherokee Nation, Oneida Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Navajo Nation–in the Haaland v. Brackeen Supreme Court case.

IntervenorTribeBrief

Pace yourself–she’s a long one.