California Misinformation in an ICWA Case


There are too many unpublished cases to post here, but this one including the following quote, which I think is important for understanding how few people in the child welfare system have a handle on ICWA’s protections, even today. I’m sure all the tribal attorneys are surprised to find out they might have to appoint a parent an attorney:

The social worker informed Mother that if she was “found to have affiliation with the tribes, she could be appointed an attorney from the tribes and placement of the children could change.”

Published Notice Case from California Court of Appeals [ICWA]


One might think, given that as of the end of July, California had more than 70 ICWA notice violation cases and in 41 one of them (fifty six percent of the time) the appellate court sent it back down to get inquiry and notice correct, the state agency might spend less time arguing why they shouldn’t do notice at all and instead just do notice right the first time. Also, this is one of those cases that makes me furious given that the Tribe intervened in mother’s case when SHE was a dependent child. But instead, let’s look at what the state argued it should do rather than give notice to the Picayune Rancheria:

It is well established that a non-Indian parent has standing to assert an ICWA notice violation on appeal. (In re Jonathon S. (2005) 129 Cal.App.4th 334, 339.) Nonetheless, the County argues that this court does not have jurisdiction, the case is not ripe for appeal, and parents do not have standing because they did not first bring a petition for invalidation in the juvenile court.


The County argues that because this specific remedy [25 U.S.C. 1914]  for ICWA violations exists, appeal is an improper remedy. It argues that a petition for invalidation is the exclusive remedy available for ICWA notice and inquiry violations and, as such, parents were required to unsuccessfully pursue such a petition in the juvenile court prior to seeking relief on appeal. Because they did not do so, it reasons, this court is without jurisdiction to hear their appeal.

Yet despite arguing that a petition for invalidation is the exclusive remedy for an ICWA violation, the County also argues parents do not have standing to file such a petition for invalidation. It argues the petition is only available to parents of Indian children—not parents of a potential Indian child for whom ICWA inquiry and notice was not effectuated. (emphasis added)


We also decline the County’s invitation to reexamine the “non-forfeiture doctrine”—or, more accurately described as the principle that a parent is not foreclosed from raising an ICWA inquiry or notice violation even if the issue could have been more timely raised by appeal from an earlier order.


Again, the County suggests we revisit established case law and depart from the requirement that the agency give ICWA notice to tribes when there is reason to know a child may be eligible for membership and require notice only when the court knows or has reason to know the child is definitively a member (or knows a parent is definitively a member and the child is eligible for membership). We decline the invitation.


Here, having reason to know the minor may be an Indian child, the juvenile court ordered the County to provide notice to the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe in accordance with the ICWA. The County knew that the maternal grandfather was a member of that tribe and that he lived on the tribe’s reservation. It also knew, or should have known, that mother was found to be an Indian child when she was a dependent of the court and that the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe had intervened in that case. We conclude, as did the juvenile court in this case, that the County was required to send ICWA notice to the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe in this case. (emphasis added)

And the kicker (court’s emphasis not italics, mine in red):

Here, the County sent notice to the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe on January 25, 2016, of the “Pre-Jurisdictional Status Conference,” which was scheduled for February 9, 2016. The juvenile court was apprised that the tribe had not received the notice but proceeded with the hearing, which was ultimately held on February 23, 2016. Thereafter, no notice of any subsequent hearing was ever sent to either the tribe or the BIA. Nonetheless, the court held the jurisdiction and disposition hearing on February 23, 2016, sustained the petition, removed the minor, and ordered reunification services. After that hearing, the County “resent” notice—apparently resending the same documents (i.e. the family history, section 300 petition, and notice of the then-passed February 9, 2016 hearing date)—thus, only providing the tribe with notice of a hearing which had already passed. The tribe received that notice on March 3, 2016. On April 26, 2016, less than 60 days thereafter, the juvenile court held an unnoticed ICWA compliance hearing and found the ICWA did not apply.


Advancing Native Representation in the Judiciary CILA Webinar

20190612_CILA_Webinar Flyer_v1_jwm

Please join the California Indian Law Association, the Tribal Justice Project, and the Aoki Center for their annual webinar, Advancing Native Representation in the Judiciary, on July 8th at 12pm PST. This webinar will focus on increasing the presence of Native attorneys in state, federal, and tribal courts.

Register for the webinar here:

Presenters include Hon. Abby Abinanti, Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribal Court; Hon. William Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and Hon. Deborah Sanchez of the Superior Court of Los Angeles.

A webinar link will be sent to those who register. Participants will receive 1 CLE credit.

Scholarship Announcement from California Indian Law Association

The California Indian Law Association (CILA) is proud to announce that it will be offering two $5,000 scholarships to current Native American law school students to assist with law school expenses. These new scholarships are made possible through a generous donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Please email all application materials to John Haney at by March 8, 2019.

More info and downloadable scholarship application available at:

Please share this scholarship announcement flyer.

California Eliminates Pro Hac Vice Barriers for ICWA Cases

In a celebrate-the-victories post, the state with the most number of ICWA cases has removed major barriers for out of state ICWA attorneys. California notoriously had some of the highest pro hac fees and tightest limitations on the number of appearances an attorney can make. When I was started poking around about the idea of court rule changes, California always rose to the top. Thanks to California Tribal Families Coalition (CTFC) and their ED, Delia Sharpe, California passed both a bill (to eliminate fees) and a court rule (to eliminate association with local counsel). Here is the CTFC press release.

If California (and Washington and Michigan and Minnesota and Nebraska and Oregon) can get this done, so can your state. There’s a whole crew of in-house ICWA attorneys backing you up–send us an email.


California ICWA Attorneys Pro Hac Waiver Proposal

And the biggest ICWA state joins the movement! Comments on this are due June 8, 2018.

Here is the proposal to change the rules to waive associating with local counsel and remove the limit on the number of times appearing (fees are intact, but are being addressed in another forum–post on how to show support for that forthcoming).

Deadline for Comments: June 8, 2018 5:00 PM (Pacific)
Submit Comment Online or, email:

Here is our current ICWA attorney pro hac page. Contact me if you would like any draft model comments.


Request for Proposal for Legal Services (California)

The Redwood Valley Little River Band of Pomo Indians in Redwood Valley, C.A. is requesting proposals for legal services from attorneys who are currently licensed to practice law in California or from law firms who currently employ attorneys licensed to practice law in California. Please see the attached document for more information on requested qualifications and how to submit the proposal. Please contact Mary Camp at if you have any questions.