The Court granted the petition with no limitations, so the issues are not limited the way the government and four tribes requested. Arguments will be held next term (terms start in October, so after October, 2022).
All the briefs are here. The Court will first consider the case at this Friday’s conference (1/7).
Today Texas, the individual plaintiffs, the Solicitor General, and the intervening tribal nations filed petitions for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to review the Fifth Circuit decision regarding the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. There will be some additional briefing over the next 30 days, and then/eventually the Court will decide whether to hear the case or not.
The Indian Law Clinic at MSU Law represents the intervening tribes in this case.
All briefs are here.
Intervening Tribes Press Release (released before the Tribal brief with over 400 tribal signatories):
Majority of U.S. States, 75 Members of Congress and more than 30 Organizations File Amicus Briefs in Support of Native American Families and Children
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, 26 states and the District of Columbia, 75 members of Congress and more than 30 organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in Brackeen v. Bernhardt. 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 regarding the amicus briefs:
“We are thrilled to see that more than half of all states across the country, 75 members of Congress and dozens of leading organizations are taking a stand for the best interests of Indian children and families. This continuous support from across the political spectrum is a testament to the critical role that ICWA plays in promoting the stability and security of Indian tribes and families. Together, we are fighting back against the meritless attacks on ICWA. We are confident that the Fifth Circuit will again stand on the side of families and children by upholding the law.”
The Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation and Quinault Nation are co-defendants in the case, defending the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) against unwarranted attacks on the law’s constitutionality.
For more than 40 years, ICWA has provided a process for determining the best interests of Indian children in the adoption and foster care systems. The tribes are arguing to defend ICWA alongside the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Interior. The case will be reheard on January 22, 2020.
The amicus briefs filed by the following States – Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin – as well as the District of Columbia, can be found here.
Amici include organizations and political leaders from across the country spanning the political spectrum, and the U.S. states are represented by attorneys general from both the Republican and Democratic parties. They also include law professors and Native women writing in support of ICWA.
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, and their recent brief can be found here.
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, which the court granted.
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. In addition to states and members of Congress, the Trump administration has strongly defended ICWA and its protections for Indian children, explaining 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.
For additional information on this case and the Indian Child Welfare Act please visit: www.ProtectIndianKids.com
The Tribes and U.S. did not seek any amicus support in opposing the petition for en banc review.
Oral arguments are March 13.
Principal Briefs on the Tribal Defendant/Intervenor and Federal Side (Pro-ICWA)
Amicus Briefs, Pro-ICWA
Principal Briefs on the State and Individual Plaintiff side (Anti-ICWA)
Amicus Briefs (Anti-ICWA)
Reply Briefs by Tribal Intervenors and Federal Government
Quote from Intervening Tribes Statement:
We applaud the broad coalition of federal lawmakers, attorneys general from 21
states, and 30 child welfare organizations who have joined 325 Tribal governments and 57 Tribal organizations in filing numerous amicus briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to defend the Constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
The past 96 hours have witnessed an unprecedented and overwhelming demonstration of support for ICWA and its constitutionality as a wave of amicus briefs were filed urging the Fifth Circuit to reverse the district court’s ruling in Brackeen v. Zinke, which erroneously deemed key provisions of ICWA as being
Passed more than 40 years ago by Congress, ICWA was designed to reverse decades of cultural insensitivity and political bias that had resulted in one-third of all Indian children being forcibly removed by the government from their families, their tribes and their cultural heritage.
ICWA ensures the best interests and wellbeing of Native American children are protected. ICWA preserves the stability and cohesion of Tribal families, Tribal communities and Tribal cultures. It maintains and reinforces the political and cultural connections between an Indian child and his or her tribe.
Multiple parties and amici filed strong briefs in the Brackeen v. Zinke case in the Fifth Circuit yesterday. Twenty-one state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of the law, as did 325 tribal nations and 57 tribal organizations. 30 child welfare organizations also signed on to the Casey Family Programs “gold standard” brief. Law professors from more than 20 law schools signed on to the three law professor amicus briefs.
Appellee states and individual plaintiffs will file theirs by February 6. Oral arguments are expected the week of March 11.
Dear tribal leaders and tribal counsel,
Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion that extends the filing deadline for amicus briefs in Brackeen v. Zinke by two days. This is one last call for Tribes who are interested in signing on to the tribal amicus brief in this case.
As you know, Brackeen v. Zinke is a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in which a federal district court judge in Texas recently found ICWA to be unconstitutional. The case is currently on appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and our co-counsel at Dentons have draft a tribal amicus brief to complement the arguments being made by the Tribal Defendants and our allies, including law professors, child welfare organizations, and several states. All federally recognized Tribes are invited to sign on to the brief in a show of unity. Of course, there is no cost to join this brief—any federally recognized Tribe may do so free of charge.
If your Tribe would like to sign its name to the brief, please let NARF know by tomorrow, Tuesday, January 15 at 11:00pm Alaska Time (7pm ET/8pmCT/9pmMT/10pmPT). Already more than 280 Tribes and more than 50 Indian organizations have signed on to the brief.
If your Tribe would like to sign on, we will need an email that provides the following:
- A statement from an individual (chairperson, executive director, general counsel, etc.) or body (tribal council, etc.) authorized to do so, asking to be added as a signatory on the brief. A statement via email is fine; and
- The full name and correct spelling of the Tribe as it should appear on the brief.
Thank you again for your commitment to defending ICWA.
Erin Dougherty Lynch
Senior Staff Attorney
Native American Rights Fund
We applaud the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for staying a recent ruling in Texas that struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). This stay decision protects children from potential abuse and forced separation from their families.
As a result, tribal families and their children in Texas and Indiana will continue to be protected from the types of abusive child welfare practices that Congress outlawed 40 years ago when it enacted ICWA.
By granting the stay, the protections provided by ICWA will remain in full force pending an appeal of the ruling handed down in October by a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas.
The Cherokee Nation, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Oneida Nation and the Quinault Indian Nation will continue to defend Native children and Native families by advocating for the constitutionality of ICWA by all available means. We strongly believe the ruling holding the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional was wrong, will ultimately be reversed on appeal, and as a result, the rights of Indian children, families and communities protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act will be affirmed and reinforced.