Deconstructing the Baby Veronica Case, Implications for Working with Fathers in Indian Child Welfare Practice, Upcoming Event

This event will be held on October 29, 2013 at the University of Minnesota.

After looking at the list of presenters and panelists, I am certain this is going to be a very interesting, informative, and probably lively event.

Presenters

Judge William Thorne
Utah Court of Appeals

Chrissi Nimmo
Assistant Attorney General of hte Cherokee Nation

Mark Fiddler
Attorney representing the Capobianco Family

Erma J. Vizenor
Chairwoman, White Earth Nation

Panelists

Terry Cross
Executive Director
National Indian Child Welfare Association

Essie Leoso

Mary Boo
Assistant Director
North American Council on Adoptable Children

Moderator

Sarah Deer
Assistant Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law

Here is the registration link.

Veronica Update from WaPo

Here (h/t How Appealing).

An excerpt:

The late justice Robert H. Jackson famously wrote of his colleagues on the high court: “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”

But sometimes the court is final only in the narrow question of law before it. That question decided, it sends the case back to lower courts, where sometimes the whole process starts anew.

Such is the fate of Veronica’s case. If anything, the Supreme Court’s decision has only heightened the stakes surrounding the rights of birth parents, the legal standing of adoptive parents and the sovereignty of Native American tribes.

USA / Indigenous peoples: UN expert urges respect for the rights of Cherokee child in custody dispute

Here.

Response from the U.S. Mission to the UN here.

GENEVA (10 September 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, today called on the relevant state, federal and tribal authorities in the United States of America to take all necessary measures to ensure the wellbeing and human rights of ‘Veronica,’ an almost four year old Cherokee child at the center of a highly contentious custody dispute.

“Veronica’s human rights as a child and as member of the Cherokee Nation, an indigenous people, should be fully and adequately considered in the ongoing judicial and administrative proceedings that will determine her future upbringing,” Mr. Anaya stressed. “The individual and collective rights of all indigenous children, their families and indigenous peoples must be protected throughout the United States.”

Veronica is currently facing judicially ordered removal from her Cherokee family and community. In June of this year the US Supreme Court ruled that certain protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act did not apply to proceedings in which a non-Cherokee couple sought to adopt Veronica, given the particular circumstances of the case. The high court, however, it did not make an ultimate determination of the disposition of the adoption proceedings.

Following the Supreme Court decision, a South Carolina state court awarded custody of Veronica to the non-Cherokee couple, but it did so without a determination of whether her transfer away from her Cherokee family would be in her best interests in light of her current situation and Cherokee heritage. Although Veronica lived with the non-Cherokee couple in South Carolina for the first two years of her life, she has now resided with her father and extended indigenous family in Cherokee territory in the state of Oklahoma for nearly two years.

South Carolina authorities have attempted to force Veronica’s father to release custody of her, charging him with custodial interference for his refusal to do so. On 3 September 2013 the Oklahoma Supreme Court took up the case, granting a temporary stay of an enforcement order and allowing the father to keep Veronica pending further proceedings.

“I urge the relevant authorities, as well as all parties involved in the custody dispute, to ensure the best interests of Veronica, fully taking into account her rights to maintain her cultural identity and to maintain relations with her indigenous family and people,” said the UN Special Rapporteur.

The independent expert pointed out that these rights are guaranteed by various international instruments subscribed to or endorsed by the US, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In his 2012 report* on the situation of indigenous peoples in the US, the Special Rapporteur noted that the removal and separation of Indian children from indigenous environments is an issue of longstanding and ongoing concern. “While past practices of removal of Indian children from their families and communities have been partially blunted by passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, this law continues to face barriers to its implementation,” Mr. Anaya stated.

“I encourage the United States to work with indigenous peoples, state authorities and other interested parties to investigate the current state of affairs relating to the practices of foster care and adoption of indigenous children, and to develop procedures for ensuring that the rights of these children are adequately protected,” the UN Special Rapporteur said.

The UN Human Rights Council appointed S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2008. Mr. Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States). As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/SRIPeoplesIndex.aspx

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report on the USA: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session21/Pages/ListReports.aspx

See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/RES/61/295&Lang=E

UN Human Rights Country Page – United States of America: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For more information and media inquiries, please contact Maia Campbell (+ 41 22 917 9314 / mcampbell@ohchr.org) or write to indigenous@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

Baby Veronica Update

Thanks to How Appealing:

“To Oklahoma’s American Indian tribes, Veronica is a battle cry for cultures”: This article appears today in The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina. And today’s edition of The Tulsa World contains an article headlined “Baby Veronica case: Victory unlikely for either side as mediation begins.”

Update in Baby Veronica

From SCOTUSblog.

An excerpt:

The adoption of the little girl known in a child custody saga as “Baby Veronica” has been approved by a family court in Charleston, South Carolina, the child’s biological father notified the Supreme Court on Thursday.   Attorneys for Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, disclosed the family court’s action in the final filing in the Court in his attempt to postpone the child’s adoption by anyone other than him or his family.The action by the state court, giving full legal custody to the child to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a non-Indian couple living near Charleston, came yesterday at a closed hearing.  All of the materials of that proceeding, including the final adoption and custody order, are under seal, by state law.  The family court also approved a “transition plan,” the details of which are also secret, that will mean the child — living with her father in Oklahoma for about nineteen months — will not be transferred immediately to her new home.  A counseling arrangement apparently is part of the transition plan.  “Baby Veronica” will be four years old next month.

***

All of the legal filings that appear to be reaching the Court in this round of the dispute have now been logged in, including a brief opposing the father’s efforts, by a South Carolina woman, Jo M. Prowell, who was appointed by the family court as the guardian of “Baby Veronica” during the legal proceedings — including the review of the case by the Supreme Court, leading to a decision against the father’s adoption prospects on June 25.

Update in Baby Veronica Case: S. Carolina SCT Denies Reconsideration

South Carolina Supreme Court Denies Rights to Baby Veronica;
National Native Organizations to Advance Civil Rights Lawsuit
 
Washington, DC – The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled today to deny the appeal filed by Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation of the Court’s July 17 order to expedite the transfer of custody of Veronica Brown to the South Carolina-based adoptive couple. One year ago, the South Carolina Supreme Court found that denying the adoption and awarding custody to Dusten Brown was in Veronica’s best interests. Today, that same Court summarily reversed that decision based on a two-year-old record and without providing a hearing for Veronica. Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling:
 
“The South Carolina Supreme Court has utterly failed to evaluate Veronica’s current best interests in this case and confirmed our worst fears – when it comes to Veronica Brown, standard adoption procedures do not apply. Apparently, the Court believes that there is no need to require the family court to hold a formal and thoughtful hearing to determine what is in Veronica Brown’s best interest. Like thousands of Native American children before her, Veronica now faces the prospect of being removed from her Cherokee family, without a formal consideration of her needs, her culture and her well-being. This is an alarming failure of the judicial system, and it represents a grave threat to all children in adoption proceedings, but most notably Native American children, who deserve all the legal protections, afforded any child in this nation.”  
 
“The National Congress of American Indians refuses to stand by as the rights of this child are violated.  Together with the Native American Rights Fund and the National Indian Child Welfare Association we are preparing to file litigation in order to protect Veronica’s civil rights.  On behalf of all Native American children, we will pursue every legal option available to us to ensure that standard adoption procedures are upheld in this case.” 
 
“Let me add that I believe the South Carolina Supreme Court has shown willful disregard for the facts when it claims Dusten Brown has not been involved in the life of his daughter. On the contrary, Dusten Brown has gone to extensive lengths to maintain his family and to care for Veronica. The Court’s willingness to ignore these facts and rush a resolution in this matter is deeply troubling. “