Alaska SCT Holds Tribal Council Does Not Have Standing to Appeal Indian Child Custody Matter

Here is the opinion in Asa’carsarmiut Tribal Council v. Wheeler. An excerpt:

The superior court awarded Wheeler primary physical custody. Neither Wheeler nor Myre has appealed the superior court’s decision, but the tribal council appeals, arguing that the superior court lacked modification jurisdiction. The narrow question before us in this appeal is thus whether the tribal council has standing to appeal the superior court’s modification decision in light of the parents’ election not to appeal that decision. We conclude that under this circumstance, the tribal council does not have standing, and we therefore dismiss the appeal.

 

Alaska SCT Briefs in Asa’carsarmiut Tribal Council v. Wheeler

Here:

Asa’carsarmiut Tribal Council Opening Brief

Wheeler Response Brief

Asa’carsarmiut Tribal Council Reply

Here are the questions presented (from the opening brief):

1. Whether, in light of this Court’s prior precedents, particularly State v. Native Village of Tanana, 249 P.3d 734 (Alaska 2011), a Superior Court may try a custody action in a matter involving an Alaska Native child without adhering to the requirements of Alaska’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), AS 25.30.300, et seq., when a tribal court has previously entered an initial determination regarding the child.
2. Whether the Superior Court erred in interpreting Alaska’s UCCJEA, AS 25.30.300, et. seq., as excluding tribal courts within the meaning of “court” in AS 25.30.909(6) and erred in failing to register the Asa’carsarmiut Tribal Court custody order, in light of the Court’s prior precedents, particularly State v. Native Village of Tanana, 249 P.3d 734 (Alaska 2011).
3. Whether the Superior Court erred in concluding that it had “at least concurrent jurisdiction over the issue of Jacob’s custody,” and proceeded to enter an initial child custody determination without giving comity to or contacting the Asa‘carsarmiut Tribal Court and requesting that the Asa‘carsarmiut Tribal Court determine that it no longer had exclusive, continuing jurisdiction or, alternatively, establishing that the Superior Court “would be a more convenient forum.”
4. Whether, if it is found that the Superior Court properly had jurisdiction to modify the Asa’carsarmiut Tribal Court order pursuant to AS 25.30.320, the Superior Court erred by failing to enter an Order Modifying Custody that stated its authority to modify the Asa‘carsarmiut Tribal Court order as well as its findings regarding a *3 substantial change of circumstances, pursuant to AS 25.20.110 rather than a Final Custody Decree and Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
5. Whether, in light of the Court’s prior precedent, particularly John v. Baker, 982 P.2d 738 (Alaska 1999), a Superior Court may try a custody action in a matter involving an Alaska Native child without engaging in a comity analysis when a tribal court had previously entered a custody order regarding the child.