Cherokee Nation files petition for rehearing in Veronica case - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Cherokee Nation files petition for rehearing in Veronica case

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Veronica has been living in Oklahoma since 2011 when the South Carolina Supreme Court said a federal law (ICWA) favored her being raised by her biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation. Veronica has been living in Oklahoma since 2011 when the South Carolina Supreme Court said a federal law (ICWA) favored her being raised by her biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -

Monday the Cherokee Nation filed a petition for rehearing in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, also known as the "Baby Veronica" case.

The motion asks the South Carolina Supreme Court to reconsider its July 17 order, which moved to terminate the parental rights of Dusten Brown and transfer Veronica to South Carolina without a hearing on her best interests. Dusten Brown, an Iraq combat veteran and active member of the Army National Guard, has had custody of his nearly 4-year-old biological daughter since 2011.

Read more on this story here.

"It is very troubling that the South Carolina Supreme Court would move to terminate the parental rights of a man who has proven to be nothing but a fit and loving father, without even holding a hearing to determine what is in his own child's best interests," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. "What is best for Veronica has not even been considered by the court. We pray the South Carolina Supreme Court grants our request for a due process hearing to determine what is in this child's best interests."

The petition for rehearing was based on two points:

  1. First, the South Carolina Supreme Court was unaware of facts informing its determination of jurisdiction
  2. Second, the court overlooked Baby Girl's best interests

At 9:29 a.m. Wednesday, July 17, 2013, Cherokee Nation District Court entered a temporary guardianship order, granting joint legal custody of Baby Girl to her stepmother, paternal grandfather and paternal grandmother. This temporary guardianship order was necessary due to Dusten Brown's mandatory National Guard training, which he is currently attending. The mandatory military training order for Brown's guard unit was issued in January 2013. The Cherokee Nation District Court's temporary guardianship order was granted five hours before the South Carolina Supreme Court order remanding this case to Family Court to terminate Brown's parental rights.

"Dusten Brown is an Iraq combat veteran who has fought as tirelessly for his child as he did for our country. That fight began the day he learned of the birth mother's plans to place his child for adoption and continues today. Since regaining custody, he has created a loving, safe and nurturing environment for Veronica," said Chrissi Ross-Nimmo, assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. "This temporary guardianship order is just another step Dusten has taken to ensure his daughter is always well cared for should something happen to him as he is serving his country during this mandatory military training assignment."

The Cherokee Nation argues that the temporary guardianship order must be considered by the South Carolina Supreme Court before making a final determination on custody of Baby Girl. Further, Cherokee Nation asserts that:  Legal custody of Baby Girl by the Paternal Grandfather prohibits the finalization of the adoption of Baby Girl without further proceedings. Under ICWA, an "Indian custodian" is provided many of the same protections afforded to a "parent." ICWA defines "Indian custodian" as "any Indian person who has legal custody of an Indian child under tribal law or custom . . ." 25 U.S.C. § 1903(6) (emphasis added). Paternal Grandfather is a member of the Cherokee Nation and has joint legal custody of Baby Girl under tribal law; therefore, he is an "Indian custodian" and, as such, is entitled to the protections of ICWA.

Lastly, the Cherokee Nation argues that Baby Girl's best interests were overlooked by the South Carolina Supreme Court, by not providing a new hearing on her best interests. This, despite the court finding more than a year and a half ago that Baby Girl's best interests were with her birth father.  "Dusten and Robin Brown have shown over the last 19 months that they are ideal parents for Veronica, and that cannot be ignored. They have created a loving and caring environment where she has thrived, surrounded by her parents, grandparents, sibling and cousins," Ross-Nimmo said. "We hope that the South Carolina Supreme Court will take seriously this question of jurisdiction before making a final determination on our petition for rehearing. To overlook this development would be an injustice to Veronica and fly in the face of respect for the jurisdiction of other sovereigns."

The Native American Rights Fund, National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Child Welfare Association said Monday they want to try to protect the best interests of the now-3-year-old girl named Veronica.

Veronica's birth mother, Christinna Maldonado issued the following statement in response to  the Cherokee Nation's filing:  "Today's developments are profoundly upsetting.  It is now clear to me that my daughter is being used by the Tribe as a pawn to protect the Tribe's interests, not hers.  I found out tonight that tribal courts are entering secret custody orders - without any notice to me or my lawyer or to her adoptive parents- in an outrageous attempt to frustrate and complicate the adoption order issued by the South Carolina court.  Meanwhile, our simple request for visitation with Veronica has been flatly rejected.  Everyone's attention should be on Veronica and how to keep all her family involved in her life as she comes back home, not on these theatrics that are designed only to cause further delay."

Christine Maldonado's attorney released the following statement in response to the filing Monday:  The Cherokee Nation cannot unilaterally reverse any state court decision it does not like by retroactively manufacturing Indian "custodians" through secret ex parte proceedings in tribal court that involve none of the interested parties that are adverse to the Tribe's interests.  This is a shameful display of hubris on the part of the Cherokee Nation, and I do not believe it will be well taken by the South Carolina courts, or the United States Supreme Court.   We invited Brown and his tribe to the table to discuss what is best for Veronica going forward, and this is what we got in return.

The Native American Rights Fund, National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Child Welfare Association said Monday they want to try to protect the best interests of the now-3-year-old girl named Veronica.  "When it comes to adoption proceedings, every court in this country has a legal obligation to put the best interests of a child first - every time, no matter the race of the child. This did not happen here. The South Carolina Court's order represents a perilous prospect for not only Veronica, but any child involved in a custody proceeding in this country," said Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of NCAI.  "In a rush to judgment, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered Veronica to be removed from her biological father without any consideration for her best interests.  The decision contributes to the long and sordid history of Native American children being removed from their families without any consideration of their best interests. The National Congress of American Indians refuses to stand by as the rights of this child are violated."

Last week the South Carolina Supreme Court last week ordered a Family Court to finalize Veronica's adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

Veronica has been living in Oklahoma since 2011 when the South Carolina Supreme Court said a federal law (ICWA) favored her being raised by her biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation.

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