American Academy Adoption Attorneys discuss Baby Veronica case - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

American Academy of Adoption Attorneys discuss Baby Veronica case as it heads to SCOTUS

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A James Island couple is up against a federal law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in a court case headed to the United States Supreme Court Tuesday.

The case involving baby Veronica began December 31, 2011 when Matt and Melanie Capobianco were court ordered to hand the (then) 2-year-old little girl over to her biological father Dusten Brown.

After more than a year of court hearings and appeals, Adoptive Couple V. Baby Girl will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next Tuesday. The nation's highest court decided to hear the case to determine if ICWA applies to an unwed father under the legal definition of "parent", and is applicable to block an adoption.

ICWA was written to keep native children on reservations in instances where American government could otherwise place them in foster homes.

According to attorneys representing the adoptive couple, it impacts thousands of custody battles across the country every year.

In a press conference Wednesday, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys said this case needs to re-define the law.

Attorney Mary M. Beck said South Carolina justices interpreted ICWA in a way that it weighed more heavily than South Carolina law in defining a "parent." In doing so, attorney Mary M. Beck said it gave an unwed father rights that are not proportionate to what he assumed.

"If ICWA relieves unwed fathers of responsibilities and provides them with more rights than other unmarried fathers that disadvantages mothers as well as children," Beck said.

Many argue ICWA is necessary because it preserves culture. Attorney Jay McCarthy, who said he works with nearly 100 ICWA cases per year, said this case is not about tribal law but about the legal disconnect between ICWA and state law.

"Remember the Indian Child Welfare Act is not a law trying to cases in tribal court, it applies to cases in state court," McCarthy said.

Next Tuesday McCarthy said statutory rights must come second to the Constitution.

"Numerous states over the years have made findings that the Indian Child Welfare Act does not change the cardinal rule that the best interest of the child is the paramount focus of that act," he said.

You can stay updated on Veronica's case by visiting the SCOTUS blog and the Supreme Court website.

Arguments go before the U.S. Supreme Court April 16th. News 2 will be inside the courtroom and have updates all day on WCBD and counton2.com.

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