Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Fleming Cert Petition


cert petition

Questions presented:

1. Whether the Eighth Circuit erred in holding, in conflict with decisions of this Court and three other courts of appeals, that the possibility of filing a separate mandamus action was in and of itself “sufficient” to provide an “adequate opportunity” requiring Younger abstention, where plaintiffs had no opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the preliminary hearing procedure in the course of the state’s abuse and neglect proceedings?
2. Whether the court of appeals erred in holding, in conflict with three courts of appeals, that the “extraordinary circumstances” exception to Younger abstention applies only to flagrantly and patently unconstitutional statutes, but not to flagrantly and patently unconstitutional policies, and in concluding that separating children from their parents for sixty days with no notice or opportunity to be heard inflicted no irreparable harm?

Lower court materials here.

Eighth Circuit Dismisses Oglala Sioux v. Fleming Under Abstention Doctrine


This is the long running (initiated before Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl) case that is attempting to address the due process and ICWA violations against Native families in Pennington Co., South Dakota. Brought by Oglala Sioux, Rosebud Sioux and two individual tribal citizen mothers on behalf of a class of similarly situated parents, this case has highlighted the disturbing practices of the county (which, even more disturbingly, are not that surprising to trial level practitioners in our child welfare system). The District Court had found for the plaintiffs at each stage, and found specifically that abstention/Younger doctrine did not a apply to this case. The Eighth Circuit found differently.

Setting aside the due process claims for the sake of this point, ICWA itself creates a right of action under 25 USC 1914 (a parent, custodian, or tribe may petition a court of competent jurisdiction to invalidate any cases in violation of 1911 [jurisdiction], 1912 [notice/active efforts/burden of proof], or 1913 [voluntary proceedings]). This right, however, has often been limited by federal courts under abstention doctrines, which means the state courts that are causing the abuses of the law are the only places to address the abuses of the law. As the Court states, “Although the plaintiffs complain that state court proceedings do not afford parents an adequate opportunity to raise broad constitutional challenges under the Due Process Clause, they have not established that South Dakota courts are unwilling or unable to adjudicate their federal claims.” There are a number of federal cases on ICWA–that is, ones that are attempting to demonstrate a violation of the law–that end up with a hollow 1914. See Yancey v. Bonner, 2008 WL 4279760 (W.D. Okla. 2008), Navajo Nation v. LDS Family Services, 2006 WL 3692662 (D. Utah 2006), Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma v. Rader, 822 F.2d 1493 (10th Cir. 1987)

I’d also note while the Court said “[t]he relief requested would interfere with the state judicial proceedings by requiring the defendants to comply with numerous procedural requirements at future 48-hour hearings,” those procedural requirements are ones required by both the Constitution and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The ICWA Appellate Project filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Navajo Nation, Cherokee Nation, the ICWA Law Center, NICWA and NCAI in this case.

Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Challenge to State/Tribal Court ICWA Jurisdiction in Alaska

Here is the unpublished opinion in S.P. v. Native Village of Minto.

Here are the materials:

Parks Appellant Brief

Minto Appellee Brief

Parks Reply Brief

Federal Supplemental Brief

Minto Supplemental Brief


Federal Court Interpretation of 25 U.S.C. 1914 and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

An effort to  persuade a federal court to review a state court action in an Indian Child Welfare Act case partially succeeds in Kirk v. Baldovinos (N.D. Cal.):

Kirk DCT Order

Alameda County Motion to Dismiss

Kirk Opposition

Alameda County Reply

California Response to Order to Show Cause

The only federal claim remaining is the ineffective assistance of ICW counsel:

Continue reading

Second Update on Chehalis Great Wolf Tax Case

The court has ordered Chehalis to show cause as to this question (our earlier post with the briefings on the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment is here):

Plaintiffs have alleged a new claim in their complaint that Defendants’ failure to follow Revenue’s opinion is a violation of both state and federal law. See supra. The original complaint, however, involved claims based only on issues of federal law. See Dkt. 1. Thus, before reaching the merits of Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion, the Court orders Plaintiffs to show cause, if any they have, why this Court should exert jurisdiction over this new claim. Although Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ failure to follow Revenue’s decision is also a violation of “federal preemption law,” there has been no showing that a county assessor violates federal preemption law solely by failing to follow a state agency’s opinion as to the imposition of a tax. In other words, if Revenue had opined that the tax was not preempted and the assessor refused to impose the tax, it is questionable whether the assessor’s action in conflict with Revenue’s opinion would raise a federal question invoking this Court’s jurisdiction. Therefore, the new claim seems to be purely a matter of state law regarding the authority of the state agency, Revenue, over the Thurston County Assessor.

Plaintiffs bear the burden to show why the Court should assert jurisdiction over this state law claim and why the Court (1) should not abstain from this matter, (2) is not divested from jurisdiction over this matter, or (3) should not decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the new claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1).

Here is the order — DCT Order to Show Cause re State Law Claims