Ninth Circuit Affirms Denial of Relief in Pala Band Disenrollment Appeal

Here is the opinion in Aguayo v. Jewell.

An excerpt:

This appeal analyzes whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it concluded that, according to tribal law, it had no authority to intervene in a tribal membership dispute, in which more than 150 people were disenrolled from the Pala Band of Mission Indians (Pala Band or Band). We conclude that it did not, and affirm the decision of the district court.

Appellate Briefs:
Doc. 13 – Appellant’s Opening Brief
Doc. 23 – Answering Brief of the Federal Defendants
Doc. 21 – Appellant’s Reply Brief

Lower court materials here

California Court of Appeals Holds ICWA Doesn’t Apply Where Pala Band Member Child is Disenrolled During Adoption Proceedings

Here is the unpublished opinion in In re K.P.:

In re K.P.

An excerpt:

Michelle T., a member of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, contends that the juvenile court violated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), title 25 United States Code section 1901 et seq. and Welfare and Institutions Code section 224 et seq. by terminating her parental rights to her children, K.P. and Kristopher P., under section 366.26.
Throughout most of their dependency cases, K.P. and Kristopher were eligible for membership, or were enrolled, in the Pala Band of Mission Indians (Pala Band). At the children’s first section 366.26 hearing, the Pala Band did not consent to the children’s adoption and the juvenile court ordered a plan of guardianship. Several years later, when the children’s cases proceeded to a second section 366.26 hearing, the juvenile court learned that the Pala Band of Mission Indians had disenrolled K.P. and Kristopher, and others, on the ground that they lacked the blood quantum necessary for membership.
Michelle argues that in view of a pending appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit challenging the validity of the Pala Band’s enrollment ordinance that resulted in the disenrollment of K.P. and Kristopher and the others, the juvenile court erred when it found that K.P. and Kristopher were not Indian children within the meaning of the ICWA and declined to apply ICWA’s substantive and procedural protections at the children’s second section 366.26 hearings. Michelle also argues that enrollment in a tribe is not required to be considered an Indian child, and that the Pala Band did not provide written confirmation that enrollment is a prerequisite for Pala Band membership.
We conclude that the juvenile court correctly ruled that the Indian tribe has the sole authority to determine its own membership and that the juvenile court must defer to the membership decisions of an Indian tribe. Under federal and state law, the Indian tribe’s membership determination is conclusive. The record shows that enrollment is a prerequisite for Pala Band membership, and that the Pala Band determined that K.P. and Kristopher are not members of its tribe. Therefore, the juvenile court did not err when it determined that K.P. and Kristopher are not Indian children within the meaning of the ICWA and terminated parental rights without applying ICWA’s heightened substantive and procedural protections. We affirm.

Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Challenge to Pala Disenrollments

Here is the unpublished opinion in Allen v. Smith:

031.1 – Memorandum Disposition(83952089_1)


This relief sought by the Appellants clearly operates against the Tribe. The
requested relief would prevent the Tribe from disenrolling the Appellants and
compel it to reinstate their membership and tribal benefits. Even the request for
compensatory and punitive damages (to be paid by the Appellees, not the Tribe)
would interfere with the Tribe’s public administration, because the monetary
damages are predicated on this court’s determination that the disenrollment of the Appellants was improper. Thus, we conclude that Appellants’ suit should be
construed as a suit against the Tribe itself.

Briefs and lower court materials here.

Three (Unpublished) California ICWA Cases

One notice opinion involving relationships with the Pala Band of Mission Indians and perhaps a Cahuilla tribe, but of course, the department would have to send notice to determine that.

A second opinion holding the rules requiring CPS to help enroll a child in her tribe (Cherokee) as active efforts are valid

Consistent with this state interest in protecting an Indian child’s interest in tribal membership, rules 5.482 and 5.484 impose an affirmative duty on the juvenile court and the county welfare department to make an active effort to obtain tribal membership for a child when the tribe has notified the county welfare department that the child is eligible. To the extent the rules require CPS to make a reasonable, active attempt to obtain tribal membership for a child, we conclude the rules do not expand or conflict with the state or federal statutory definition of an Indian child. The rules’ requirement that CPS “provide active efforts under rule 5.484(c) to secure tribal membership for the child” (rule 5.482(c)) furthers the objective of ICWA and has no bearing on the ICWA definition of “Indian child.”


CPS received four requests to complete an enrollment application, beginning in December 2012, and still had not done so over six months later. The record does not show any reason for CPS not providing the Tribe with a completed, signed enrollment application by the time of the section 366.26 hearing in June 2013.
We therefore conclude CPS failed to comply with rules 5.482(c) and 5.484(c) by not taking reasonable, active steps to secure tribal membership for the children. Such error was not harmless. Active efforts to obtain membership for the children likely would lead to the children becoming Tribe members subject to ICWA protections, and would enable the Tribe to intervene if it so chose.

Finally, a fairly standard ICWA notice case, where even after the following, the parents were asked in court to stipulate that this was not an ICWA case.

In this case, Father provided the name and contact information for his uncle who he believed could provide more information about the children’s grandmother who was alleged to have Cherokee ancestry. There is no evidence in the record the Agency contacted the uncle. Further, the agency did not respond to the repeated requests from the Cherokee Nation for additional information. The Agency failed to make reasonable efforts to obtain any additional family history. Under these circumstances, we find the ICWA notice was inadequate because the Cherokee Nation was deprived of a meaningful opportunity to determine if M.S., E.S., and A.S. were Indian children.

Federal Court Rejects Challenge to Federal Decision in Pala Disenrollment Dispute

Here are the materials in Aguayo v. Jewell (S.D. Cal.):

54-1 Aguayo Motion for Summary J

57-1 Federal Cross Motion for Summary J

59 Aguayo Reply

60 Federal Reply

Aguayo v. Jewell Judgement in Civil Case.11.18.14 (1)

Aguayo v. Jewell.Order Dismissing.11.18.14

Prior post in this proceeding here. Related posts here and here.

Ninth Circuit Briefs in Pala Disenrollment Appeal — Allen v. Smith


(August 9 2013) Appellants_ Opening Brief

Answering Brief 11-8-13

Lower court materials here.

Update in Pala Band Disenrollment Dispute

Here are the new materials:

13.05.09_SD AS-IA Brief re Pala dissenrollment appeals.

2013_04_29 Notice of Procedures


IBIA Order Dismissing Appeal 7.18.12

IBIA Petition for Reconsideration 8.12.12

Notice of Appeal Final 7.7.12

Order Denying Reconsideration.8.29.12

PALA Admin Records – INDEX Aguayo & Howard.5.10.13

RD Recommendation 6.7.12

Prior posts on the IBIA proceedings are here and here.