County Governments and National Child Welfare Advocates Urge Supreme Court to Hear Baby Veronica Case

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Six friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed with the United States Supreme Court, each urging the Court to accept a case involving a 3-year-old child and the proper interpretation of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The child’s adoptive parents are fighting to regain custody of the little girl named Veronica after custody was transferred to the child’s biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, in December 2011.

Six friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed with the United States Supreme Court, each urging the Court to accept a case (U.S. Supreme Court Docket No. 12-399) involving a 3-year-old child and the proper interpretation of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The child’s adoptive parents are fighting to regain custody of the little girl named Veronica after custody was transferred to the child’s biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, in December 2011.

Collectively, every county in the state of California along with the county welfare directors expressed their support by asking the nation's highest court to hear the case. The counties outline their need for clarification surrounding the federal law. Their brief expresses their interest in Veronica’s case and voices their concern that the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court (Case No. 27148) creates conflicts in case law defining the federal rights of an unwed father under the federal law. The brief also states that the decision deepens “the existing conflicts in the courts” encompassing the interpretation of the law.

Veronica’s court-appointed guardian ad litem and her birth mother, represented by Paul Clement and Gregory Garre respectively, have also filed briefs with the court in support of Veronica’s adoptive parents. Veronica’s guardian ad litem, who advocates for the child’s best interests, says she "exhaustively considered the child's best interests and concluded that they clearly would be served by allowing her adoptive parents to retain custody." Clement and Garre are both former U.S. Solicitors General. Clement served as the nation’s chief law officer from 2005-2008 and has argued more than 60 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. Garre succeeded Clement as Solicitor General in 2008.

The National Council for Adoption, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the Center for Adoption Policy, and other child advocacy groups also submitted briefs urging the Court to consider the case. Those organizations explained that ICWA’s implementation has been varied between states and that the Supreme Court’s review is critical in order to establish national uniformity. The National Council for Adoption’s brief says, “Specifically, there is not a clear national understanding of whether ICWA applies when a non-Indian parent voluntarily places a child for adoption and there is not a clear understanding of the definition of ‘parent’ under ICWA with respect to unwed fathers.”

The Capobiancos are represented in the Supreme Court by Lisa Blatt of Washington, D.C., and Mark Fiddler of Minneapolis, Minn. Blatt has argued 30 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, prevailing in 29 of them. Fiddler has more than 25 years of experience with cases involving Native American children and he is the founder of the Indian Child Welfare Act Law Center.

After requesting an extension, a response from Veronica’s biological father and the Cherokee Nation is due November 30.

The U.S. Supreme Court filings for can be found at http://www.saveveronica.org/us-supreme-court/. A record of all court filings for this case can be found at http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/12-399.htm

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Caitlin Ramsey
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