ICWA Decision out of Missouri on Tribal Intervenor (Relator) Standing and Writ of Prohibition

From the facts in this opinion, it’s clear this is a pretty contested post termination of parental rights/foster care adoption case from the southern district of Missouri (Poplar Bluff, Springfield). What is not in the opinion but is available on the Westlaw decision page are the attorneys involved in the case. I’m sure it’s some local southern Missouri attorneys:

Attorneys for Relator – Heidi Doerhoff Vollet of Jefferson City, MO; James R. Layton of St. Louis, MO
Attorney for Respondent Judge – Scott S. Sifferman Acting Pro Se
Attorneys for Minor – William Petrus of Mt. Vernon, MO (GAL); Matthew D. McGillDavid W. Casazza, Robert Batista, Todd Shaw of Washington, D.C.
Attorneys for Respondents Foster Parents – Toni M. Fields of Cassville, MO; Paul Clement, Erin Murphy of Washington, D.C.; Kevin Neylan of New York, NY


Even so! In this case, the Court of Appeals found the Choctaw Nation had standing to to bring the writ of prohibition against the judge and the Court of Appeals entered the writ (Respondent is the trial judge)(also, this is why formal legal intervention is so important for tribes whenever possible)(also why it’s good to find local family law attorneys who can talk about things like “writs of prohibition” with expertise):

In his brief, Respondent argues that the Choctaw Nation does not have standing to seek this writ of prohibition. On two occasions, Respondent granted the Choctaw Nation the right to intervene in this protective custody proceeding under 25 U.S.C. § 1911(c), and also granted the Choctaw Nation the right to intervene in Foster Parents’ adoption proceeding. We see no error in these rulings. The Choctaw Nation has standing to seek
this writ of prohibition.


Respondent did not have the express or implied authority to interfere in the Children’s Division’s administrative review of a nonfinal administrative recommendation for adoption, and then substitute Respondent’s judgment for that of the Children’s Division and compel the Children’s Division to reach or adhere to a particular recommendation.

Oklahoma Tribes Sue Interior over Gaming Compact Approvals

Here is the complaint in Cherokee Nation v. Dept. of the Interior (D.D.C.):

1 Complaint

1-1 Comanche Gaming Compact

1-2 Otoe-Missouria Gaming Compact


26 Amended Complaint

Federal Court Holds Oklahoma Gaming Compacts Automatically Extend to 2035

Here are the materials in Cherokee Nation v. Stitt (W.D. Okla.):

125-1 Tribes Motion for Summary Judgment

126 State Motion for Summary Judgment

128 Wichita Tribes Motion for Summary Judgment

140 Tribes Response

141 State Response

142 State Response to Wichita Tribes

145 Wichita Tribes Response

149 DCT Order

Case tag here.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Intervene in Oklahoma Gaming Compact Suit

Here are the updated materials in Cherokee Nation v. Stitt (W.D. Okla.):

21 Citizen Potawatomi Nation Motion to Intervene

21-1 Complaint in Intervention

23 Muscogee (Creek) Nation Motion to Intervene

23-1 Complaint in Intervention

28 DCT Order Granting Motions to Intervene

Prior posts here.

Oklahoma Court of Appeals on Reason to Believe ICWA Case

Here is the opinion.

This case went to trial–a unique aspect of Oklahoma child welfare law–on January 23, 24, and 25, where the Mom testified about her work in getting the children enrolled in the Choctaw Tribe. When Mom appealed the termination of parental rights based on lack of ICWA compliance, the

¶10 State filed an objection and response asserting, inter alia: “At the time of trial, the evidence and record showed the children were not members of an Indian tribe.” It claimed that “the only other way the children could be defined as Indian children implicating the application of ICWA was if the children were ‘eligible for membership [in a tribe] of which the biological parent is a member.’ See BIA Regulations §23.108(a).” State argued that, because Mother testified she is a member of the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe and the children are not eligible to be members of that tribe, “but that she was trying to enroll the children as Choctaw (of which she could not be a full member given her membership in Cheyenne Arapaho), there was no reason to believe the children met the definition of ‘Indian Child’ at the time of trial given the evidence and testimony in the record.” It argued that the record in the case showed that the children were not tribal members at the time of trial and the record only reflected their membership after Mother filed the motion for new trial.

(emphasis added)


¶28 Although it is clear the trial court and State may not have been affirmatively informed of the children’s membership in the Choctaw Nation until February 3, 2017, this date is not determinative of the date ICWA became applicable. We reiterate that the trial court and State had reason to know at trial that ICWA may very well apply and this warranted further investigation. Despite the Choctaw Nation’s previous communication about the children’s membership status, Mother’s detailed testimony about establishing her own membership and the children’s membership raised red flags that further inquiry at trial was needed despite the Choctaw Nation’s earlier communication.

¶29 We recognize that that does not mean that IWCA applied to the case from the date it was filed in 2011. ICWA became applicable on the date the children became eligible for enrollment3 or the date they enrolled, which was January 20, 2017. At the latest, ICWA applied as of January 20, 2017, a date before trial started. ICWA’s provisions, including the heightened burden and expert witness requirements, were applicable at trial.

The distinction between when a court has reason to know a child might be an Indian child and then when ICWA applies (prospectively, Oklahoma has frustratingly stated in the past, In re M.H.C.2016 OK 88381 P.3d 710) is a question we get a lot.