Fifth Circuit Grants En Banc Review of Brackeen v. Bernhardt [ICWA]

Here

Tribal Intervenor Statement here:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 7, 2019

Contact: Tania Mercado tmercado@skdknick.com

Native American Tribes Continue to Stand with Indian Children and Families Following Court Decision to Rehear Fifth Circuit Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Robert Martin, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill and Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp issued the following statement in response to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to rehear a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act en banc:

“We never want to go back to the days when Indian children were ripped away from their families and stripped of their heritage. We continue to believe that the Fifth Circuit decision affirming the constitutionality of ICWA was the right decision. While it is unfortunate that the attacks on this critical law continue, we are confident that the court will once again uphold the constitutionality of ICWA, as courts have repeatedly done over the past 40 years. ICWA provides a process for determining the best interests of Indian children in the adoption and foster care systems, which is why it is overwhelmingly supported across the political spectrum. We remain devoted in our efforts to defend ICWA because our number one priority remains fighting for the wellbeing, health and safety of children and families.”

In 2017, individual plaintiffs Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, a couple from Texas, along with the state attorneys general in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and its now-former Secretary Ryan Zinke to challenge ICWA. The Morongo, Quinault, Oneida and Cherokee tribes intervened as defendants in the case Brackeen v. Bernhardt.

In October 2018, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas struck down much of ICWA. Defendants appealed the lower court’s decision and asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision. Last December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay requested by the defendants, putting a hold on the ruling. In March 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from plaintiffs and defendants in the Brackeen case.

On August 9, 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the Indian Child Welfare Act is constitutional and serves the best interests of children and families. On October 1, 2019, plaintiffs in Brackeen v. Bernhardt chose to continue their attacks on Indian children and tribal families and requested an en banc rehearing before the Fifth Circuit.

There is broad, bipartisan support against this misguided attack on a law that is crucial for protecting the well-being of Indian children and Indian sovereignty. A total of 21 attorneys general, representing a broad range of states, filed an amicus brief in support of the defendants, arguing that ICWA is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection laws. The Trump administration has also reiterated its support for ICWA, tribal sovereignty and the safety of Indian children.

An additional 325 tribes, 57 tribal organizations, members of Congress, Indian law and constitutional law scholars, and 30 leading child welfare organizations have also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the defendants.

For additional information on this case and the Indian Child Welfare Act please visit: http://www.ProtectIndianKids.com.

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Alabama-Coushatta Tribe Cert Petition in Gaming Matter

Here is the petition in Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas v. Texas:

alabama-coushatta-tribe-of-texas-cert-petition.pdf

Questions presented:

Whether IGRA authorizes gaming on tribal lands previously governed by trust statutes that prohibited gaming, as the National Indian Gaming Commission, the Department of the Interior, and the First Circuit have concluded, or not, as the Fifth Circuit has held.

Lower court materials here.

Fifth Circuit: ICWA is Constitutional on All Counts

Here.

The Fifth Circuit overturned the Northern District of Texas today with strong language supporting ICWA. The Court found that the plaintiffs did have standing, but found against them on all other counts. There is a dissent forthcoming from Judge Owens.

Equal Protection:

We begin by determining whether ICWA’s definition of “Indian child” is a race-based or political classification and, consequently, which level of scrutiny applies. The district court concluded that ICWA’s “Indian Child” definition was a race-based classification. We conclude that this was error.

We disagree with the district court’s reasoning and conclude that Mancari controls here. As to the district court’s first distinction, Mancari’s holding does not rise or fall with the geographical location of the Indians receiving “special treatment.”

Anti-Commandeering:

We examine the constitutionality of the challenged provisions of ICWA below and conclude that they preempt conflicting state law and do not violate the anticommandeering doctrine.

Non-Delegation:

We find this argument unpersuasive. It is well established that tribes have “sovereignty over both their members and their territory.” See Mazurie, 419 U.S. at 557 (emphasis added)”

For a tribe to exercise its authority to determine tribal membership and to regulate domestic relations among its members, it must necessarily be able to regulate all Indian children, irrespective of their location.

Authority to Issue Regulations

Here, section 1952’s text is substantially similar to the language in Mourning, and the Final Rule’s binding standards for Indian child custody proceedings are reasonably related to ICWA’s purpose of establishing minimum federal standards in child custody proceedings involving Indian children. See 25 U.S.C. § 1902. Thus, the Final Rule is a reasonable exercise of the broad authority granted to the BIA by Congress in ICWA section 1952.

Conclusion:

For these reasons, we conclude that Plaintiffs had standing to bring all claims and that ICWA and the Final Rule are constitutional because they are based on a political classification that is rationally related to the fulfillment of Congress’s unique obligation toward Indians; ICWA preempts conflicting state laws and does not violate the Tenth Amendment anticommandeering doctrine; and ICWA and the Final Rule do not violate the nondelegation doctrine. We also conclude that the Final Rule implementing the ICWA is valid because the ICWA is constitutional, the BIA did not exceed its authority when it issued the Final Rule, and the agency’s interpretation of ICWA section 1915 is reasonable.

Fifth Circuit Rules in Favor of Texas over Alabama-Coushatta Tribe on Gaming

Here is the opinion in State of Texas v. Alabama-Coushatta Tribe.

Briefs and lower court materials here.

Briefing Completed in Brackeen v. Bernhardt (frmly Zinke) in the Fifth Circuit [ICWA Case]

Oral arguments are March 13.

Principal Briefs on the Tribal Defendant/Intervenor and Federal Side (Pro-ICWA)

Appellant Tribes Brief

Appellant Federal Parties

Navajo Nation Motion to Intervene and Proposed Brief

Amicus Briefs, Pro-ICWA

Congressional Amicus Brief

Constitutional Law Profs Brief

Casey Family Programs and Thirty Child Welfare Organizations Amicus Brief

21 State Attorneys General Amicus Brief

Indian Law Scholars Amicus Brief

325 Tribal Governments and 57 Tribal Organizations Amicus Brief

Prof. Ablavsky Amicus Brief

UKB Amicus Brief

Native American Women’s Amicus Brief

Principal Briefs on the State and Individual Plaintiff side (Anti-ICWA)

AppelleeStateBrief

IndividualPlaintiffBrief

Amicus Briefs (Anti-ICWA)

ChristianAllianceAmicus

ProjectonFairRepresentationAmicus

Goldwater Cato AAAA Amicus

OhioAmicusBrief

Reply Briefs by Tribal Intervenors and Federal Government

Appellant Tribes’ Reply Brief

Federal Reply Brief

Intervenor Navajo Nation Reply Brief