Qualified Expert Witness Case from Alaska [ICWA]

Eva H. v. State of Alaska

This is a case worth reading in its entirety for the discussion of the qualifications of the QEW but also the discussion of the testimony supporting the casual connection between the parents’ behavior and the removal of the children.

This QEW had been a Guardian ad Litem in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region for a number of years, however:

She agreed that she had no formal education in psychology, mental health, chemical dependency, substance abuse, social work, or therapy, and she did not recall having read any scholarly literature in these areas. She acknowledged that she was unable to “diagnose mental health issues,” though she testified she could recognize them based on her experience as an attorney and a GAL. But she further admitted that she did not use “any documents or models, like professional references, in order to make those conclusions”; she relied solely on her experience as an attorney and a GAL.

Then, she

did not address causation, as framed in the regulation, by testifying about how Keith and Eva’s conduct was likely to cause “serious emotional or physical damage to” the two boys. She drew no connections between specific conduct
and the likelihood of specific harm. We have held in the past that expert testimony need not directly address every aspect of this element of a termination decision; trial courts are allowed to consider “reasonable inferences from the expert testimony, coupled with lay witness testimony and documentary evidence from the record.” But when expert testimony is required in order to support termination in ICWA cases, trial courts may rely on reasonable inferences only from the testimony of witnesses who are qualified to testify on the subject.