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California's highest court won't disrupt placement of Choctaw Nation girl

Filed Under: Law | National
More on: california, choctaw, icwa, supreme court
     
   

The National Indian Child Welfare Association wants to know why you #DefendICWA. Photo from NICWA

Opponents of the Indian Child Welfare Act plan to take another high-profile dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The courts in California have determined that the 1978 law applies to a Choctaw Nation girl who has been placed with relatives in Utah. But a non-Indian couple -- aided by an attorney who has tried to weaken ICWA -- has insisted on fighting.

The battle will continue after the California Supreme Court on Thursday refused to review the girl's placement. The non-Indian couple quickly vowed an appeal.

"ICWA is a federal statute, and the case raises federal constitutional issues that are best addressed by the US Supreme Court," the couple wrote in a post on Facebook.

The couple is being represented by attorney Lori Alvino McGill. She previously represented the non-Indian biological mother in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a high-profile case that went before the Supreme Court and resulted in a Cherokee Nation girl being removed from the custody of her Cherokee father.

There is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case involving the Choctaw Nation girl. The court is still without a full slate of justices and the remaining eight appear unwilling to take on disputes that could result in ties.

Adoptive Couple was decided by a 5-4 vote in June 2013 and without a ninth justice, the court could conceivably deadlock on a future ICWA case.

The Supreme Court petition process, however, typically takes a few months to resolve. So by the time the Choctaw Nation case is ready for consideration, the court could conceivably have a ninth justice.

California Court of Appeal Decision:
In re Alexandria P., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law (July 8, 2016)

Earlier California Court of Appeal Decision:
In re Alexandria P., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law (August 15, 2014)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Final Indian Child Welfare Act Rule:
Final Rule: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Proceedings | Final Rule: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Frequently Asked Questions | Dear Tribal Leader Letter | Dear State Governor Letter

Federal Register Notices for Indian Child Welfare Act:
Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (March 30, 2015)
Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (February 25, 2015)

Related Stories:
Matthew Fletcher: The Supreme Court and Indian Child Welfare Act (08/24)
Training sessions planned for final Indian Child Welfare Act rule (07/22)
California remains a battleground for Indian Child Welfare Act (07/21)
Delphine Red Shirt: Our children need to be kept close to home (07/21)
Court won't disturb placement of Choctaw Nation girl in ICWA dispute (07/11)
Anti-Indian Child Welfare Act attorney continues to question law (06/10)
Final Indian Child Welfare Act rule goes into effect this December (6/9)
Bureau of Indian Affairs set to finalize Indian Child Welfare Act rule (6/8)
California court won't upset placement of Choctaw Nation child (03/31)
Conservative website urges readers to contact Choctaw Nation (03/24)
Anti-Indian Child Welfare Act lawyer pursues appeal in California (03/23)
Anti-Indian Child Welfare Act attorney takes on another dispute (03/22)
Court in California won't let Choctaw girl be placed with relatives (8/19)

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