Law | National

Tribal organizations plan lawsuit on behalf of Baby Veronica






Now that Veronica and her father, Dusten Brown. Photo Courtesy Cherokee Nation

The National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Child Welfare Association and the Native American Rights Fund plan to file a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Veronica Brown, the Cherokee Nation girl at the center of a fast-moving Indian Child Welfare Act case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three organizations announced their intent to file the suit in federal court, most likely in South Carolina. The action is expected if the state court there finalizes an adoption of Veronica to a non-Indian couple.

"NCAI refuses to stand by as the rights of this girl are violated," Jackie Pata, the group's executive director, said on a conference call this afternoon.

"This is an alarming failure of the judicial system," added Terry Cross, NICWA's executive director.

The Supreme Court on June 25 ruled that the parental rights of Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation who is the father of Veronica, were not protected by two provisions in ICWA. The decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl prompted a non-Indian couple to seek an expedited review of their proposed adoption back in South Carolina.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, finalized the decision on June 28, far quicker than is normal for Supreme Court cases.

Without holding a hearing, the South Carolina Supreme Court on July 17 issued an order that terminated Brown's parental rights. The parties were given five days to respond and those filings are expected today.

The outcome is not yet known but NCAI, NICWA and NARF are prepared to defend the rights of Veronica if she ends up being adopted by the non-Indian couple. Officials noted that her rights are protected by ICWA.

"Veronica is still an Indian child. She is still a citizen of the Cherokee Nation," Cross said.

Veronica currently lives with her father, his wife and their family in Oklahoma. She has been there for almost two years.

"She does reside within the Cherokee Nation within our 14 county jurisdiction," said Amanda Clinton, the communications director for the tribe. "She does not reside on trust land, however."

Audio from the press conference can be found on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud.

Supreme Court Decision:
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (June 25, 2013)

Oral Argument Transcript:
Adoptive Couple v. Cherokee Nation (April 16, 2013)

South Carolina Supreme Court Decision:
Adoptive Couple v. Cherokee Nation (July 26, 2012)

Related Stories:
South Carolina's top court approves adoption of Cherokee girl (7/17)