Updated ICWA Defense Project Memo

The ICWA Defense Project (NCAI, NARF, NICWA, and ICWA Appellate Project) has updated the memo detailing the various federal court challenges to ICWA.

Here.

On February 25, 2015, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published revisions to the Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings. These revised Guidelines address areas of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) non-compliance occurring over the past 36 years.

One month later, the BIA proposed to advance its reforms by proposing draft federal Regulations to govern the implementation of ICWA in state courts and agencies. On June 17, 2016, the BIA issued final Regulations for Indian Child Welfare Act Proceedings, as well as Frequently Asked Questions regarding the final rule. In addition, the U.S. Department of the Interior Solicitor issued a Memorandum describing BIA’s authority to issue the Regulations.

In response to the 2015 reforms, a network of ICWA opponents filed multiple lawsuits challenging the Guidelines and ICWA’s constitutionality. The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the ICWA Appellate Project at Michigan State University College of Law—collectively known as the ICWA Defense Project—are working collaboratively to defend ICWA and the long overdue reforms.

This memorandum summarizes the pending litigation and describes some of the legal and communications strategies developed by these partner organizations to inform, advance, and unify a coordinated effort across Indian Country in response to these attacks.

Doe v. Jesson, now Piper, Partially Survives Motion to Dismiss

Here. This is the federal case challenging the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act.

The Court finds that it has jurisdiction to hear the Does’ complaint, but only against the government defendants. The Court will dismiss Commissioner Moose from the case because he is a tribal officer and not a state officer; does not enforce MIFPA; and is not restricted by the constitutional clauses at issue here. But even though the Court may proceed to the merits of the Does’ complaint against the government defendants, the Court will not decide the merits now. The parties necessarily and understandably devoted nearly all of the briefs to the numerous preliminary issues. Although the jurisdictional questions were well briefed, the Does’ equal protection and due process claims received less attention than they deserved. Accordingly, in deciding these motions the Court will express no opinion on the merits – only on the preliminary matters. It may be that Defendants’ positions on the merits are correct – or incorrect – but those questions will be decided another day.