South Dakota Supreme Court Denies Transfer to Tribal Court [ICWA]

Here

The Tribe requested transfer and the child’s attorney objected. The trial court did not allow testimony regarding bonding and attachment from the child’s doctor. The Supreme Court held

With or without the 2016 regulations, though, circuit courts need the benefit of a sufficiently developed record to assist in the good cause determination. See A.O., 2017 S.D. 30, ¶ 13, 896 N.W.2d at 656; In re M.C., 504 N.W.2d 598, 601 (S.D. 1993). In both A.O. and M.C., we held that the circuit court should have conducted an evidentiary hearing before determining the motion to transfer jurisdiction. In the absence of a developed record, we are unable to conduct meaningful appellate review concerning the merits of the parties’ claims.

[¶17.] As it relates to this case, we conclude that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the Tribe’s motion to transfer without hearing the testimony of the child’s physician who was present in the courtroom. Relying upon the impromptu offer of proof by Child’s counsel, the court determined that Dr.
Whitney’s testimony was categorically irrelevant. We disagree.

The Court reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing.

 

Placement Preferences/Active Efforts (ICWA) Case from South Dakota Supreme Court

InreMD

Footnote 4:

4. We are aware of the recent decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas holding parts of ICWA, including its placement preferences, unconstitutional. Brackeen v. Zinke, No. 4:17-cvoo868-0, 2018 WL 4927908 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 4, 2018). However, the decision may be appealed and ICWA has previously been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Miss. Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 109 S. Ct. 1597, 104 L. Ed. 2d 29 (1989). Moreover, we are not bound by the decision of the District Court in Texas and must presume that ICWA is constitutional. U.S. v. v. Nat’l Dairy Prods. Corp., 372 U.S. 29, 32, 83 S. Ct. 594, 597, 9 L. Ed. 2d 561 (1963) (noting that Acts of Congress have “strong presumptive validity’); State v. Rolfe, 2013 S.D. 2, ¶ 13, 825 N.W.2d 901, 905 (“Statutes are presumed to be constitutional[.]”).

The Father argued the state failed to provide active efforts when the children were not placed within the placement preferences. The Court did not agree with his argument.

South Dakota Supreme Court Overturns Denial of Transfer to Tribal Court

Here.

We agree that the court’s denial of the request to transfer was improper. It is undisputed that the circuit court refused to hold a separate evidentiary hearing on the question of good cause. And the court’s commentary on the issue during the December 14, 2015 review hearing consists only of the following:

Well, it’s going to be the Court’s finding that the motion to transfer is not timely and it’s going to be denied in this case. I note this case is—was open last November, 2014. The [T]ribe’s apparently been aware of it for more than a year. No efforts were made to get it transferred before this time, and I—my real concern is, it just is contrary to the interests of the children to start over from square one after a year has proceeded in the matter, so that motion is going to be denied.

As noted above, in determining whether the motions to transfer were timely, the court was required to consider all the particular circumstances of this case, not simply the amount of time that had passed since the proceedings first began. See id. at 600. Although this case was over one year old, it had not yet reached final disposition. Without knowing the Tribe’s and Mother’s reasons for waiting to seek transfer, the circuit court necessarily did not consider all the circumstances of this case.

The court’s finding that transferring jurisdiction was not in the best interest of the Children is susceptible of the same criticism. As above, the absence of specific factual findings precludes meaningful review. The Tribe intervened and has been involved in this case since nearly its beginning. The Tribe has been represented at each of Mother’s review hearings. The circuit court did not identify any reason to conclude that transferring jurisdiction to the Tribe would have amounted to a “start over from square one[.]”