Unpublished Notice Case Out of California


In one line, this case summarizes why the Department’s failure to do notice properly harms kids and families:

[Infant]’s adjudication hearing was initially set for October 2013 but was continued approximately five months (due to the Department’s failure to properly serve notice under the ICWA) during which time the infant remained out of mother’s care.

And, for the record, in this case, “mother and maternal relatives had tribal enrollment numbers, and mother claimed father had Cherokee heritage. None of the ICWA notices sent reflected all of this information.”

California v. Miami Nation Enterprises: California SCT Materials (So Far)


California Petition for Review

Public Justice Amicus Brief in Support of Petition

MNE Answer to Petition

California Petition Stage Reply

California Opening Merits Brief

MNE Merits Brief

California Reply

California Supplemental Brief

Lower court materials here.


Three Remanded for ICWA Notice Deficiency Cases out of California

Cases from the Second District, the Fourth District and the First District.

From the Second District:

Before the next scheduled hearing on January 31, 2013, DCFS submitted the following documents to the court: signed return receipts for the entities noticed; a letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs acknowledging receipt of the ICWA notice but indicating it does not determine tribal eligibility; a letter from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma declining to intervene in the case because there was no evidence T.M. was a descendant of anyone on the Keetoowah Roll based on the information supplied; a letter from the Cherokee Boys Club, Inc., on behalf of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, declining to intervene in the case because T.M. was neither registered nor eligible to register as a member of the tribe based on the information supplied; and a letter from the Cherokee Nation seeking further information. The Cherokee Nation letter asked DCFS to “verify correct spelling of maternal great great grandmother Lual Made [D.], also need her date of birth. Relationship of Eleonora [H.] to the above named child. [¶] We need dates of birth for everyone involved, their relationship to the child or children in question, and maiden names of all females listed. It is impossible to validate or invalidate this claim without more complete information.” (Boldface and capitalization removed.)

At the January 31, 2013 hearing, which was presided over by a different hearing officer than Commissioner Lewis, the court stated the tribes were properly noticed and it had received letters back from the tribes indicating T.M. was not an Indian child. The court found the ICWA did not apply. The court did not acknowledge the Cherokee Nation’s request for further information.

Just spit balling here, but maybe the reason Cherokee Nation puts part of its response in BOLDFACE CAPITALIZATION is to help a state court out, so it doesn’t find ICWA doesn’t apply when it might.

California COA Affirms Tribal Immunity from Casino Employees’ Suit

Here is the opinion in Chavez v. Morongo Casino Resort & Spa:


ICWA Placement Preference Decision Out of California Involving Choctaw Tribe


This is a re-occurring and incredibly frustrating ICWA fact pattern–if the ICWA compliant placement is out of state, or far away from the parents, and the goal is reunification, it makes sense for the tribe and state to allow for a non-compliant ICWA placement near the parents. What happens, however, when reunification fails? As in this case, a court is often unwilling to remove the child from the home she has been in for anywhere from one to three years. Honest, actual, concurrent permanency planning could help with this, but while that is a best practice, it does not seem to be happening with any regularity at the state.

Concluding that the ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences do apply to this case, we then review the trial court’s order finding that the P.s failed to produce clear and convincing evidence of good cause to depart from those placement preferences. We determine that the court applied the correct burden of proof by requiring the P.s to prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to deviate from section 1915’s placement preferences. However, the court erroneously required the P.s to prove a certainty that Alexandria would suffer harm if moved, and failed to consider Alexandria’s best interests or her bond with the P.s in determining good cause.


We recognize that a final decision regarding Alexandria’s adoptive placement will be further delayed as a result of our determination of the merits of this appeal. That delay is warranted by the need to insure that the correct legal standard is utilized in deciding whether good cause has been shown that it is in the best interest of Alexandria to depart from the ICWA’s placement preferences.

As also often happens, the parties start arguing about the very constitutionality of ICWA, making this case a “not as bad as it could have been” case–the court didn’t find ICWA is unconstitutional, nor does Adoptive Couple apply (as the de facto parents argued) to this fact pattern. And yet, the trial court decision placing the child with her extended family is still overturned based on the child’s best interest standard. Getting courts to acknowledge that the best interests of a child ought to include the child’s whole life, not just the one transition in front of the court at that moment, is both vital and seemingly impossible.

For the (depressing) record, here is Evelyn Blanchard writing the same thing in 1977 in The Destruction of American Indian Families, ed. Steven Unger (Association of American Indian Affairs 1977).

(Happy to post redacted briefs if we receive any)

California COA Affirms Immunity of Tribally-Owned Payday Lenders

Here are the materials in People of the State of California v. MNE:


California Opening Brief

MNE Brief

California Reply Brief

An excerpt from the opinion:

Applying the arm-of-the-tribe analysis as we directed in Ameriloan v. Superior Court (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 81 (Ameriloan), the trial court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction this action by the Commissioner of the California Department of Corporations against five “payday loan” businesses owned by Miami Nation Enterprises (MNE), the economic development authority of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, a federally recognized Indian tribe, and SFS, Inc., a corporation wholly owned by the Santee Sioux Nation, also a federally recognized Indian tribe. Because the two tribal entities and their cash-advance and short-term-loan businesses are sufficiently related to their respective Indian tribes to be protected from this state enforcement action under the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity, we affirm.

A second related opinion from the same court:


An excerpt:

The Commissioner of the California Department of Corporations (Commissioner),1 on behalf of the People of the State of California, sued Ameriloan, United Cash Loans, US Fast Cash, Preferred Cash and One Click Cash for injunctive relief, restitution and civil penalties, alleging they were providing short-term, payday loans over the Internet to California residents in violation of several provisions of the California Deferred Deposit Transaction Law (DDTL) (Fin. Code, § 2300 et seq.). Miami Nation Enterprises (MNE), the economic development authority of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, a federally recognized Indian tribe, and SFS, Inc., a corporation wholly owned by the Santee Sioux Nation, also a federally recognized Indian tribe, specially appeared and moved to quash service of summons and to dismiss the complaint on the ground the lending businesses named as defendants were simply trade names used by the two tribal entities and, as wholly owned and controlled entities of their respective tribes operating on behalf of the tribes, they were protected from this state enforcement action under the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity.

During the course of this litigation on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court imposed $34,437.50 in discovery sanctions against the Commissioner after the court denied in substantial part her motion to compel further responses to a second set of requests for production of documents from MNE and SFS. We affirm.

California COA Decides ICWA Notice Appeal

Here is the opinion in In re Brianna M.:

In re Brianna M

An excerpt:

Francisco contends finally that he is a member of the Gila River Community, a federally recognized Indian tribe. He urges that DCFS therefore was required by ICWA to provide notice of the proceedings to the tribe, and to give the tribe the opportunity to intervene. DCFS concedes that ICWA notice was not properly given and does not object to a remand with directions to the juvenile court to order DCFS to provide proper notice.
Pursuant to 25 United States Code section 1912(a), “[i]n any involuntary proceeding in a State court, where the court knows or has reason to know that an Indian child is involved, [DCFS] shall notify the parent or Indian custodian and the Indian child’s tribe, by registered mail with return receipt requested, of the pending proceedings and of their right of intervention.” Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2, subdivision (a)(1) similarly provides that notice to the tribe “shall be sent by registered or certified mail with return receipt requested.”

Because DCFS failed to provide proper ICWA notice, we remand the matter to the juvenile court with directions to direct DCFS to comply with the notice provisions of ICWA. However, we decline to reverse the jurisdictional and dispositional orders because there is not yet a sufficient showing that Brianna is an Indian child within the meaning of ICWA. If after proper inquiry and notice a tribe determines Brianna is an Indian child, any interested party may petition the court to invalidate any orders that violated ICWA. (See In re Hunter W. (2011) 200 Cal.App.4th 1454, 1467, 135 Cal.Rptr.3d 355; In re Damian C. (2009) 178 Cal.App.4th 192, 199–200, 100 Cal.Rptr.3d 110.)

A Positive ICWA Case Out of California

We almost never see a positive case out of California. Here is one (In re C.S.), and the words of the juvenile referee Sobel from state court:

The court granted the section 388 petitions filed by mother and father, concluding, “We have an American Indian child. That’s different. We have siblings who are with relatives. That’s different. We have a new baby who has been safely in the mother’s care since the [non-detain] petition was filed. That’s different. So, when you say that the children who are placed with foster parents at birth, that is their parent, the parent that is there night and day, you are correct, in every case, that’s correct. But the point of this is what happens to parents in the part that we call reunification? Where at some point do the parents earn the right to become those people? Where is that transference into being able to be a parent? Now, with the two other children . . . , they are with relatives. Those relatives are glad to step back and be relatives. If they need to adopt, they will. But the fact is they are grandparents. They prefer to be grandparents. I have two parents in complete compliance with their original case plan and American Indian. As to [C.’s older sibling and half-sibling], there’s no question there are changed circumstances here. The issue is best interest and I find it’s in the best interest of [the older sibling and half-sibling] to grant the 388 and place the children home of parents: mom for [the half-sibling and sibling], dad and mom for [the sibling]. We’ve already taken [the baby] off the track [by dismissing the non-detain petition as to her]. . . . [C.] is American Indian. She has three siblings. Those siblings are going home. . . . I am telling you, from my heart, an American Indian child belongs in an American Indian home, especially when that home has siblings in it and parents who are appropriate. There is no question that ICWA requires that I do what is right under ICWA; that I do what’s right for this family, understanding and knowing that C. loves [her de facto parents] both as a primary attachment. . . .    I’m granting mother[’s] and father’s 388 as to C., finding there are changed circumstances and that it is in the child’s best interest to be returned to her parents.”

California COA Decides ICWA-Related Appeal Involving Cherokee/Choctaw Freedmen Descendants

The opinion in In re D.N. is here.

An excerpt:

The “by blood” requirement in the Choctaw Nation‟s Constitution, as well as others, has been interpreted as excluding the descendants of freedmen. (Allen v. Tribal Council (2006) 9 Okla. Trib. 255.) The exclusion of the descendants of former slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes is a matter of ongoing controversy. (See, e.g., Cherokee Nation v. Nash (N.D.Okla. 2010) 724 F.Supp.2d 1159.) It cannot be addressed in this dependency proceeding since membership criteria are the tribe‟s prerogative, and its determination of a child‟s eligibility for membership is conclusive for purposes of ICWA. (44 Fed.Reg. 67584, 67586 (Nov. 26, 1979); § 224.3, subd. (e)(1); In re Jack C., III (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 967, 978.)

Cal. COA Decides ICWA Notice Case — Information about Great-Great-Ancestors Not Required


In re JM

An excerpt:

V.M. (mother) challenges the juvenile court’s order terminating her parental rights to now four-year-old J.M. and three-year-old B.M. Father is not a party to this appeal. Mother contends that the order must be reversed because the Department of Children and Family Services failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in that: (1) the notices sent did not include the names of maternal great-great-grandparents, alleged by the maternal grandmother to have Papago Indian heritage; and (2) J.M. was not included in the notices. We disagree, finding the law does not require the inclusion of information about great-great-ancestors in ICWA notices, and any error in failing to include J.M. was harmless. We therefore affirm.