Fort & Smith on ICWA During the Brackeen Years

Forthcoming in the Juvenile & Family Court Journal

From 2017 through 2022, while the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) was under direct constitutional attack from Texas, state courts around the country continued hearing appeals on ICWA with virtually no regard for the decision making happening in Haaland v. Brackeen in the federal courts. For practitioners following or working on both sets of cases, this duality felt surreal, as they practiced their daily work under an existential threat. The data in this article draws from the authors’ previous publications providing annual updates on ICWA appeals, and now includes cases through 2021. It provides a description of appellate data trends across this time period, as well as for each year, while also highlighting key appellate decisions from jurisdictions across the country. Perhaps what this article demonstrates more than any single thing is the amount that ICWA is a part of child welfare practitioners’ daily lives now, in a way that will be difficult to upend, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision.

This is particularly recommended for practitioners–we’ve taken the data from all our past articles to put them into one. One of our charts still needs a labels fix from our data expert, Alicia Summers, but otherwise the article has undergone peer review and will be published soon.

Application of ICWA to Third Party Custody Petition out of Montana

2023-da-22-0405

The Court agreed that ICWA applied to a third party custody petition where the parent could not get her child back upon demand, but rejected the argument the child must be returned immediately under 1920.

These type of third party cases are particularly important to keep an eye on, as agencies often push cases in this direction to avoid filing a petition on a parent (this itself is a complicated topic). Regardless, parents and tribes shouldn’t lose certain rights under ICWA if the placement meets the definition of a foster care placement under the law.

Neoshia Roemer on Un-Erasing American Indians and the Indian Child Welfare Act from Family Law

Neoshia Roemer has posted “Un-Erasing American Indians and the Indian Child Welfare Act from Family Law,” forthcoming in the Family Law Quarterly, on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

In 1978, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) as a remedial measure to correct centuries-old policies that removed Indian children from their families and tribal communities at alarming rates. Since 1978, courts presiding over child custody matters around the country have applied ICWA. Over the last few decades, state legislatures, along with tribal community partners and advocates, have drafted and enacted state ICWA laws that bolster the federal ICWA laws. Despite four decades of ICWA, trends in child welfare demonstrate that Indian children are still vastly overrepresented in the child welfare system. Because tribal communities, advocates, community partnerships, and scholars work tirelessly to both ensure and improve ICWA compliance, ICWA still provides some of the best outcomes for Indian children through both family reunification and/or placement within their tribal communities.
However, family law often minimizes or mischaracterizes what the Act does. While ICWA is a complex law and even an entire semester may not fully provide justice to the breadth of the Act, this characterization of ICWA creates a stigma around the law. Family law scholars and practitioners can no longer overlook ICWA in conversations and teachings. Stigmatizing ICWA in the classroom contributes to the erasure of American Indians from our society at large and from our classrooms. This allows legitimized racism against this community to seep into both the classroom and the practice area.
Accordingly, this article discusses how family law classrooms can incorporate ICWA into conversations on family law as a step in eliminating bias in the legal academy and in the profession against American Indians. This article describes some of the history around ICWA, how family law feeds into the erasure of American Indians in the legal field, some misconceptions about ICWA, and how we can tie ICWA and other issues impacting American Indians into our classroom teachings on family law.

Fletcher and Khalil on ICWA Preemption and Commandeering

Fletcher and Randall F. Khalil have published “Preemption, Commandeering, and the Indian Child Welfare Act” in the Wisconsin Law Review.

Blurb:

We argue that the anti-commandeering challenges against ICWA are unfounded because all provisions of ICWA provide a set of legal standards to be applied in states which validly and expressly preempt state law without unlawfully commandeering the states’ executive or legislative branches. Congress’s power to compel state courts to apply federal law is long established and beyond question.

Excerpt from Fletcher comic book about the Brackeen argument that no one may ever read.

Native America Calling Show Today — The Fate of ICWA

Here.

Each side presented their oral arguments Wednesday to the U.S. Supreme Court for the most serious challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act in recent memory. The decision in Haaland v. Brackeen will be a major force in the future of ICWA and the scope of tribal sovereignty. Today on Native America Calling, Shawn Spruceanalyzes the legal debate from a Native perspective with Matthew Fletcher (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), law professor at the University of Michigan Law School and author of the Turtle Talk blog; independent journalist Suzette Brewer (citizen of the Cherokee Nation); and Dr. Sarah Kastelic (Alutiiq), director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association.