Wyoming Supreme Court Applies Adoptive Couple Case in Termination Proceedings


We note that Appellant does not provide any discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. In any event, however, we would agree with the reasoning of the Supreme Court and conclude that it applies with equal, if not greater, force in the present case. In this case, Appellant has not asserted that he has any Native American heritage that would qualify ARW as an “Indian child” under the ICWA. Rather, he claims that ARW “might be” an “Indian child” because ARW’s mother is “half Apache.” ARW’s mother, however, relinquished her parental responsibilities to Appellees soon after ARW’s birth, and she allowed them to exercise her custody and visitation rights after she was divorced from Appellant. Further, ARW’s mother consented to termination of her parental rights in the adoption proceedings. Accordingly, as in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the “breakup” of an Indian family would not be precipitated by the termination of Appellant’s parental rights. We find no error in the district court’s conclusion that the ICWA did not apply to the termination proceedings.


In re LNP, Guardianship and ICWA

Wyoming Supreme Court decision.

Multiple ICWA issues, including applying ICWA to permanent guardianships, the shift from a temporary guardianship to a full or “plenary” guardianship, the requirements of a qualified expert witness, the ability of guardians to provide active efforts, and even a little existing Indian family doctrine in the qualifying of the expert witness.

Wyoming Supreme Court Rejects Equal Protection Challenge to ICWA “Clear and Convincing Evidence” Standard

Here the opinion in In re KMO.

An excerpt:

Several state courts have evaluated the equal protection argument in the context of the ICWA as compared with a state statute with a “clear and convincing” standard of proof. See, In re Application of Angus, 655 P.2d 208 (Ore. App. 1982), Knight v. State (In re MK.), 964 P.2d 241 (Okla. Civ. App. 1998); State v. Sonya L. (In re Phoenix L), 708 N.W.2d 786 (Neb. 2006). Those courts have applied the test articulated in Moe and concluded that there was no equal protection violation under the United States Constitution. See, e.g., Application of Angus, 655 P.2d at 213 (holding “the protection of the integrity of Indian families to be a permissible goal that is rationally tied to the fulfillment of Congress’ unique guardianship obligation toward the Indians.”). Mother provides no legal authority or cogent argument in support of her position that an equal protection violation has occurred. We follow the reasoning of the Oregon court in Application of Angus and hold that the different burdens of proof in the federal ICWA and Wyoming’s termination statute do not violate Mother’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

State Supreme Court Outcomes: Wyoming & Utah

We’ll do two today, since these states have fewer cases. Wyoming is another state with no intermediate appellate court. Utah will be our first with an intermediate appellate court.

First, in Wyoming, tribal interests have a 20 percent win rate.

Second, in Utah, tribal interests have a 43 percent win rate.

Here are the Wyoming cases:

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Wyoming Supreme Court Upholds Authority of BIA Officers to Detain Non-Indians until State Law Enforcement Arrives

Here is the Wyoming Supreme Court’s decision in Coyler v. State Dept. of Transportation. This case contains a very nice review of the various state and federal cases involving the authority of tribal cops to detain non-Indians until state law enforcement arrives. An excerpt:

Viewing the facts of the instant case in the context of the law just recited, we must conclude that nothing occurred in the detention of the appellant to render his arrest unlawful. The appellant could not have been arrested and prosecuted within the tribal court system because he was not a tribal member. He could not have been arrested by the B.I.A. officer and prosecuted within the federal system because the DWUI offense was a State offense, making him subject to arrest and prosecution by the State. Despite the jurisdictional olio on the reservation, the law is clear that the appropriate action to be taken in circumstances such as those presented in this case is for the reservation officer to detain the appellant for formal arrest by a state officer. That is what happened.

Wind River Reservation Diminshment — Yellowbear v. Wyoming (Wyo. S. Ct.)

The Wyoming Supreme Court decided Yellowbear v. Wyoming, finding that the Wind River Reservation had been diminished in upholding the conviction of Yellowbear (h/t Indianz).

Once again, a state court has been placed in the position of adjudicating Indian reservation boundaries in the context of of a criminal case.