Law | National

Supreme Court declines petition in Indian Child Welfare Act case






A message to the conservative Goldwater Institute, which is challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Photo: Defend ICWA

Tribes can breath a sigh of relief now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a high-profile Indian Child Welfare Act case.

Without comment, the justices on Monday declined a petition in R.P. v. LA County Department of Children and Family Services. That means a Choctaw Nation girl will remain with her relatives instead of being displaced by a non-Indian foster couple.

"The only reason there was a media-fueled tragedy is because counsel for the foster family pointed at the act and the Choctaw Nation to incite race-based animosity when the facts and the law were not in their favor," professor Matthew L.M. Fletcher wrote in a letter to the American Bar Association Journal in response to what he said was a biased article about the dispute.

The last ICWA dispute that went before the high court was Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. By a 5-4 vote in June 2013, the justices forced a Cherokee Nation citizen to give up his daughter to a non-Indian couple.

Tribes and their advocates were worried about a repeat of the situation because the attorney who represents the couple in R.P. also represented the non-Indian mother in Adoptive Couple. Conservative organizations are also attempting to weaken ICWA through the courts and by influencing public opinion about the law.

Congress passed ICWA in 1978 to prevent Indian children from being taken from their families and their communities. Despite the law's mandate, a number of states and adoption agencies continue to face compliance problems.

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