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Tribes line up support as Supreme Court takes up ICWA dispute

The National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund are lining up some major support as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, an Indian Child Welfare Act case.

At least a dozen briefs will be filed in support of Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation whose rights are at issue in the case. Briefs are coming from individual tribes, national tribal organizations, adult Indian adoptees, several states, national child welfare organizations, law professors, religious groups, psychologists' associations, current and former members of Congress, military and veterans organizations and even the American Civil Liberties Union.

"We have brought our A-team to this case," NARF attorney Richard Guest said at NCAI's 2013 executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Another brief might be coming from the Department of Justice. Sam Hirsch, the deputy associate attorney general, said the issue was under discussion.

"We are very aware of the case," Hirsch told tribal leaders yesterday. "I can't really say much beyond that."

"We'll take that as a yes," responded Jefferson Keel, the president of NCAI.

The justices will hear the case on April 16. They will be considering two main questions but Guest said they could make a decision with far-reaching implications.

"This court could do anything once a case is in front of them," Guest said. "That's one of the reasons why this case is such a concern."

Brown is the biological father of a girl, Veronica, whose biological mother put her up for adoption as he was being deployed to Iraq. He successfully gained custody but the non-Indian couple that wants to take the girl, backed by some high-profile Washington, D.C., attorneys, convinced the Supreme Court to hear he dispute.

"Its a really critical case," said Gil Vigil, the president of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. "The very thing that we worked on for so many years ... is now being challenged."

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

Related Stories:
Blog: Supreme Court hears Cherokee Nation ICWA case in April (3/5)
Supreme Court to hear Cherokee Nation ICWA case on April 16 (02/14)
NYT Debate: Indian Child Welfare Act and the Supreme Court (01/25)
Supreme Court ruling could impact ICWA cases nationwide (1/14)
Analysis: Media fails in coverage of Cherokee ICWA dispute (1/14)
Supreme Court takes first Indian Child Welfare Act case in years (1/7)
Supreme Court considers petition in Cherokee Nation ICWA case (1/4)

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