Article on Child Removal Practices in Kentucky

Not sure what’s in the water today, but here.

Also, not innovative and I’m going to go with illegal:

An investigative report by WDRB in Louisville, Kentucky recently exposed a particularly innovative — although likely illegal — method that the state’s child protective services caseworkers came up with to remove children from their families without court approval.

According to the report, Cabinet for Health and Family Services workers kept stacks of blank emergency removal orders that were pre-signed by local district court judges. This allowed caseworkers to take custody of children without having a judge properly review the allegations or evidence beforehand. Attorneys and judges interviewed for the report compared the practice to a police officer creating their own search warrant without a judge’s approval.

Oklahoma American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act of 1974 Struck Down [definition of “Indian” more restrictive than federal law]

Here are the materials in Fontenot v. Hunter (W.D. Okla.):

1 Complaint

33 Ps Motion for Summary Judgment

35 Oklahoma Motion for Summary Judgment

39 Ps Response

41 State Response

42 State Reply

43 Ps Reply

47 DCT Order

An excerpt:

Although the Court rejects Plaintiff’s challenges under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as those under the dormant Commerce Clause and the First Amendment, the Court finds for the foregoing reasons that Plaintiff has shown that Oklahoma’s American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act of 1974, as amended, Okla. Stat. tit. 78, §§ 71-75, violates the United States Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and is therefore unconstitutional, both facially and as applied to her.


Eighth Circuit Dismisses Oglala Sioux v. Fleming Under Abstention Doctrine


This is the long running (initiated before Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl) case that is attempting to address the due process and ICWA violations against Native families in Pennington Co., South Dakota. Brought by Oglala Sioux, Rosebud Sioux and two individual tribal citizen mothers on behalf of a class of similarly situated parents, this case has highlighted the disturbing practices of the county (which, even more disturbingly, are not that surprising to trial level practitioners in our child welfare system). The District Court had found for the plaintiffs at each stage, and found specifically that abstention/Younger doctrine did not a apply to this case. The Eighth Circuit found differently.

Setting aside the due process claims for the sake of this point, ICWA itself creates a right of action under 25 USC 1914 (a parent, custodian, or tribe may petition a court of competent jurisdiction to invalidate any cases in violation of 1911 [jurisdiction], 1912 [notice/active efforts/burden of proof], or 1913 [voluntary proceedings]). This right, however, has often been limited by federal courts under abstention doctrines, which means the state courts that are causing the abuses of the law are the only places to address the abuses of the law. As the Court states, “Although the plaintiffs complain that state court proceedings do not afford parents an adequate opportunity to raise broad constitutional challenges under the Due Process Clause, they have not established that South Dakota courts are unwilling or unable to adjudicate their federal claims.” There are a number of federal cases on ICWA–that is, ones that are attempting to demonstrate a violation of the law–that end up with a hollow 1914. See Yancey v. Bonner, 2008 WL 4279760 (W.D. Okla. 2008), Navajo Nation v. LDS Family Services, 2006 WL 3692662 (D. Utah 2006), Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma v. Rader, 822 F.2d 1493 (10th Cir. 1987)

I’d also note while the Court said “[t]he relief requested would interfere with the state judicial proceedings by requiring the defendants to comply with numerous procedural requirements at future 48-hour hearings,” those procedural requirements are ones required by both the Constitution and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The ICWA Appellate Project filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Navajo Nation, Cherokee Nation, the ICWA Law Center, NICWA and NCAI in this case.

Remedies Brief Filed in Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Fleming (Van Hunnik)

After winning a partial summary judgment (twice, if you count the motions for reconsideration), the plaintiffs in the federal class action ICWA/Due Process lawsuit have filed their brief requesting remedies.

Remedy Brief

The four Defendants in this action are largely ignoring this Court’s summary judgment ruling of March 30, 2015, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, 100 F. Supp. 3d 749 (D.S.D. 2015) (hereinafter “Oglala II”),1 in which the Court found that the Defen-dants were violating seven of Plaintiffs’ federal rights. Today, more than a year later, the Defendants continue to commit six of those violations, and only partially halted the seventh. As a result, more than one hundred additional Indian families have suffered the injuries Oglala II intended to prevent, and new families fall victim every week.

Mr. Hanna had previously written Judge Robert Mandel, the Seventh Judicial Circuit judge who heard most of the 48-hour hearings in 2015, to see if he would convene a meeting with Mr. Hanna and representatives from the States Attorney’s Office and Dakota Plains Legal Services to discuss how this Court’s summary judgment ruling could be implemented in the Seventh Circuit’s 48-hour hearings. Judge Mandel declined, and attached to his response a telling article entitled: “Federal law in the state courts: The freedom of state courts to ignore interpretations of federal law by lower federal courts.” (This correspondence and the article are attached as Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 2R). To Plaintiffs’ knowledge, in not one 48-hour hearing in 2015 did Judge Mandel incorporate the procedural protections this Court held in Oglala II are required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Complaint in National Council for Adoption v. Jewell–Litigation Challenging the 2015 ICWA Guidelines


Plaintiffs argue the 2015 Guidelines violate the APA, due process of birth parents and children, equal protection of birth parents and children, the 10th amendment, and manage a quick sideswipe at ICWA itself on page 38 (exceeds Congress’s authority under the Indian Commerce Clause).

Motions to Reconsider in Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik


Davis Brief in Support (April 2015)

Davis Motion to Reconsider (April 2015)

DSS Brief in Support (April 2015)

DSS Joinder in Arguments of other Defendants (April 2015)

DSS Motion to Reconsider (April 2015)

Vargo Brief in Support (April 2015)

Vargo Brief in Support Revised (April 2015)

The order at issue is here.

Stephen Pevar on the Oglala Sioux v. Van Hunnik Victory


All of the cards were stacked against the parents in these proceedings and the parents lost 100 percent of the time.

That’s right, you didn’t misread that. The state won 100 percent of the time, which isn’t surprising given that only the state was allowed to present any evidence and all of that evidence was submitted secretly to the judge. But two South Dakota Indian tribes — the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe — and three Indian parents fought back.

South Dakota Tribes Win Federal ICWA Case, Oglala Sioux v. Van Hunnik

The 45 page order granting partial summary judgment is HERE, with a judgment order granting injunctive and declaratory relief forthcoming in May.

The court finds that Judge Davis, States Attorney Vargo, Secretary Valenti and Ms. Van Hunnick developed and implemented policies and procedures for the removal of Indian children from their parents’ custody in violation of the mandates of the Indian Child Welfare Act and in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The case directly addressed section 1922 emergency removal standard of evidence and return of the child; and due process claims at those emergency hearings (48-hour hearing) of notice, the right of parents to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, attorney representation, and a decision based on evidence at that hearing.

Among many other things, the judge addresses both the old and new Guidelines (which specifically mentioned this case):

A simple examination of these administrative materials should have convinced the defendants that their policies and procedures were not in conformity with ICWA § 1922, the DOI Guidelines or the Guidelines promulgated by the South Dakota Unified Judicial System. Indian children, parents and tribes deserve better.

The order grants summary judgment on  the ICWA violations AND the Due Process ones:

Judge Davis and the other defendants failed to protect Indian parents’ fundamental rights to a fair hearing by not allowing them to present evidence to contradict the State’s removal documents. The defendants failed by not allowing the parents to confront and cross-examine DSS witnesses. The defendants failed by using documents as a basis for the court’s decisions which were not provided to the parents and which were not received in evidence at the 48-hour hearings.

This is amazing–congratulations and many thanks to all involved. Especially to the families.

Previous coverage here. Summary judgment briefs and exhibits here.