Motion and Briefing for Partial Summary Judgment in Oglala Sioux v. Fleming (Van Hunnik)

This filing is part of the ICWA class action case in South Dakota over the interpretation of 25 USC 1922 (emergency jurisdiction):

The third reason why this Court’s ruling on § 1922 has been inoperative is because the State’s Attorney for Pennington County, Defendant Mark Vargo, and the person Mr. Vargo has assigned to handle abuse and neglect cases in Pennington County, Deputy State’s Attorney Roxanne Erickson, see Erickson Dep. at 5-7, is failing to properly employ the federal standard. Indeed, Mr. Vargo’s interpretation of § 1922 threatens to forever prevent Plaintiffs from obtaining the benefit of this Court’s ruling on § 1922.6 The instant motion for partial summary judgment seeks to remove this final obstacle to the implementation of § 1922 in Defendants’ 48-hour hearings.

Plaintiffs deposed Ms. Erickson on May 25, 2016. Ms. Erickson testified that she interprets the word “harm” in § 1922’s standard “physical damage or harm” as including emotional harm. Id. at 131 made that ‘harm’ would also include emotional harm to the child. . . . [T]hat is how I would read it, that you have to show some form of harm which could include emotional harm.”). Thus, Defendant Vargo continues to use the state standard rather than the federal standard, given that Ms. Erickson interprets the federal standard to authorize DSS to consider emotional harm in determining whether to seek continued custody of an Indian child at the 48-hour hearing.

Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

Memorandum in Support of S.J.

Affidavit in Support of Motion

Statement of Undisputed Facts

Ex. 1-Vargo

Ex. 2-Vargo

Ex. 3-Vargo

Ex. 4-Vargo

Ex. 5-Vargo

Ex. 6-Vargo

Motions for Reconsideration in Oglala Sioux v. Van Hunnik Denied

After losing a partial summary judgment in March, the state defendants filed motions to reconsider. Those have now been denied. The order is here.

The DSS Defendants miss the point of the court’s findings. The issue is not what the Indian parents knew about the reasons their children were initially removed from the parents’ custody, but rather the factual basis supporting continued separation of the family. This is the information mandated for disclosure to the parents and for consideration by the state court judges in  determining whether continued separation of the family is necessary under ICWA. (Docket 150 at pp. 27-28).

The court acknowledged the DSS Defendants claimed to have provided the ICWA affidavit. See id. at p. 13. What was troubling to the court and justified the findings made on the issue was that “disclosure of an ICWA affidavit and petition for temporary custody to a parent was not mentioned in 77 out of 78 cases.” Id. at pp. 13-14. Then in seven cases there were specific references in the transcripts to complaints by the parents or the Tribe’s counsel that they had not received the documents allegedly justifying continued placement with DSS. Id. at pp. 14-15.