February 12, 2016

American Indian interests will sue over SC Supreme Court order in Baby Veronica case

The South Carolina Supreme Court said Wednesday it will not rehear the Baby Veronica case. Instead, in a 3-2 vote, the court ordered that the family courts should move forward with the adoption of the child by a James Island couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

Native American groups say they will now sue since both the U.S. and the SC Supreme Court denied her Cherokee father parental rights to the three-year-old “because of his irrefutable lack of support, interest or involvement in the life of  Baby Girl.”  The adoptive couple was chosen by the birth mother. Her father, Dusten Brown, was sent adoption papers under the Indian Child Welfare Act and he began to fight for custody.

This is a turn-around from the high court’s previous decision which granted custody back to Dusten Brown in Oklahoma, where she has been for 18 months.

The SC Supreme Court says the latest decision ends the entire process and “that finality should be honored.” The court says their order supersedes a hearing by a family court to determine the best interest of the child. 

The denial of a family court “best interest” hearing is the basis for what will be a civil rights lawsuit by Native American advocates. By her heritage, Veronica is considered a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized sovereign state within the U.S.

Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, responded:  “The National Congress of American Indians refuses to stand by as the rights of this child are violated.  Together with the Native American Rights Fund and the National Indian Child Welfare Association we are preparing to file litigation in order to protect Veronica’s civil rights.  On behalf of all Native American children, we will pursue every legal option available to us to ensure that standard adoption procedures are upheld in this case.” 

Read complete statement by Pata.

The Capobiancos and their spokesperson would not comment Wednesday.

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