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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the district court denying the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s motion to intervene in a child protective action involving nonmember children following the removal of the children from the custody of their mother, who resided in the Tribe’s territory, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the Department of Health and Human Services’ removal of the children from the Tribe’s territory was not impermissible state regulation of an “internal tribal matter.” Following the Department’s removal of the children from their mother’s care, the Tribe filed a motion to intervene, alleging that Me. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) provided for intervention of right because the removal of the children from the Tribe’s territory constituted impermissible state regulation of an internal tribal matter. The court denied the motion to intervene. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the removal of the children did not constitute impermissible state regulation of an internal tribal matter; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the Tribe’s motion for permissive intervention. View "In re Children of Mary J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellants’ and the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s motions to transfer jurisdiction of this child protection matter to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. 1901-1963, holding that the district court properly found that there was good cause within the meaning of ICWA not to transfer the matter to the Tribal Court. There was no dispute in this case that these were child custody proceedings to which ICWA applied, the children were Indian children within the meaning of ICWA, and the children did not reside on the reservation in South Dakota. Here, the district court focused on the difficulty in the presentation of evidence that would occur if jurisdiction were transferred from Maine to South Dakota. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the court’s denial of the motion to transfer was supported by its findings and conclusions and that the court’s analysis of the geographical challenges posed by a potential transfer was supported by ample evidence, contained no legal errors, and did not represent an abuse of discretion. View "In re Children of Shirley T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her two children, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it continued with child custody proceedings before conclusively determining the children’s Indian status. After Mother’s children were adjudicated as youths in need of care the district court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The order stated that the children were not Indian children subject to the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). On appeal, Mother argued that the district court erred in categorizing the children outside the scope of ICWA without first making a conclusive determination that the children were not Indian children pursuant to ICWA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it applied the non-ICWA statutory standards because the court had neither a reason to believe nor a reason to know that the children were Indian children subject to ICWA. View "In re J.J.C." on Justia Law

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Two cases involving J.Y. were consolidated for this decision. In case No. C082548, appellant R.T., mother of minor J.Y., appealed a juvenile court’s order authorizing J.Y.’s removal from his previous caretakers and placement with the caretakers of his two siblings, minors Ja.Y. and Ju.Y., to be adopted through tribal customary adoption. In case No. C084428, mother appeals from the juvenile court’s order granting the Pit River Tribe’s (the Tribe) petitions for modification, giving full faith and credit to an amended tribal customary adoption order. R.T. contended removal and placement was not in the minor’s best interests, and that: (1) the Tribe did not have standing to file Welfare and Institutions Code section 3881 petitions for modification; and (2) the juvenile court acted beyond its authority in giving full faith and credit to the amended tribal customary adoption order because it had already given full faith and credit to the original tribal customary adoption order. The Court of appeal concluded that mother lacked standing to raise the placement issue on appeal and rejected the remaining contentions. View "In re J.Y." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his two children, holding that the district court correctly determined to proceed as if the children were Indian children and the Indian Child Welfare Act applied, but the court erred in failing to make specific findings about how or if the facts of the case met the “active efforts” required by clear and convincing evidence prior to removal and beyond a reasonable doubt prior to termination. The district court’s order found that children were Indian children, but neither transcripts nor written orders discussed how the Department of Public Health and Human Services made “active efforts” before removal and before termination. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s order and remanded the matter for the court to document in detail if the Department met its burden of providing “active efforts” by clear and convincing evidence prior to removal and beyond a reasonable doubt prior to termination pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 1912(d) and 25 CFR 23.2. View "In re B.Y." on Justia Law

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Shane Martin appealed an order denying his N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from default judgment. Martin was the biological father of Cheri Poitra's child, I.R.P. Martin and Poitra were unmarried tribal members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In August 2017, Poitra began receiving services from Bismarck Regional Child Support Unit (BRCSU). The State sought to establish a child support obligation from Martin and served him with a summons and complaint. Martin completed a financial affidavit and returned it to BRCSU on October 8, 2017, but did not file an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 7, 2017, the State filed a N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 motion for default judgment. More than 21 days had passed since Martin was served and he had appeared but had not filed an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 17, 2017, Martin filed a notice of special appearance. The notice of special appearance did not contain an accompanying affidavit, motion, request for action, or response to the allegations. Instead, the notice stated only that Martin's attorney was entering a special appearance to contest "both subject matter and personal jurisdiction." Included with the notice was a copy of a summons and a petition for custody filed by Martin with the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court on November 16, 2017. A hearing on the "notice of special appearance" was held January 2018. During the hearing, the district court stated numerous times that the notice was not a motion on which the court could act and instructed Martin to file a motion. In February, 2018, the district court entered its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order for judgment finding Martin in default. Judgment was entered February 21, 2018. Martin argues that his return of the financial affidavit and filing of a notice of special appearance was sufficient to preclude a default judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 55(a) and thus the district court erred in denying his Rule 60(b) motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed: the district court did not err in denying a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment where Martin was properly provided notice and served with the motion for default judgment. View "North Dakota v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership (Snowbowl) and the City of Flagstaff on the public nuisance claim brought by the Hopi Tribe, holding that environmental damage to public land with religious, cultural or emotional significance to the plaintiff is not special injury for purposes of the public nuisance doctrine. The Tribe brought a claim of public nuisance based on Snowbowl's use of reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking on Northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks. At issue was whether the Hopi sufficiently alleged a “special injury” for an actionable public nuisance claim. The Tribe alleged that it would suffer special injury by the interference with the Tribe’s cultural use of the public wilderness for religious and ceremonial purposes. The trial court ruled that the Tribe failed to satisfy the special injury requirement on the basis of religious or cultural practices. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that while the Tribe sufficiently alleged that the use of reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks constituted a public nuisance the Tribe failed to articulate any harm beyond that suffered by the general public. View "Hopi Tribe v. Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the dispositional order terminating Father’s parental rights of his four-year-old son (Child) in this Indian Child Welfare Act case, holding that there was no trial court error in terminating Father’s parental rights. In terminating Father’s parental rights, the trial court found that Father failed to act as a caregiver to Child and that his and Mother’s continued custody of Child would likely resolution in serious emotional or physical damage to them. In addition, the court concluded that active efforts were made to prevent the breakup of the family but were unsuccessful and that termination of all parental rights was the least restrictive alternative in the children’s best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Father's argument that the South Dakota Department of Social Services failed to make active efforts to prevent the breakup of his Indian family was without merit; and (2) therefore, the trial court properly terminated Father’s parental rights. View "In re Interest of M.D." on Justia Law

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In vacating the adoption decree in this case, the Supreme Court addressed the proper interpretation of the relevant adoption statutes, as well as the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA), and whether Father abandoned his child, holding that the county court erred when it failed to comply with Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-107 to 43-109 when granting the adoption. On remand from the Supreme Court, the county court found that the petitioning grandparents (Grandparents) had made active efforts to prove remedial programs designed to unite Father with his Indian child under section 43-1505(4) and that Father had abandoned his child. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the adoption decree, holding (1) the county court did not err in finding by clear and convincing evidence that Grandparents made active efforts to reunite the child with Father, in finding that Father abandoned his child for at least six months prior to his incarceration, and in finding that adoption was in the child’s best interest; but (2) the county court erroneously failed to comply with sections 43-107 to 43-109 in granting the adoption. View "In re Adoption of Micah H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her two children, holding that the district court erred when it proceeded with termination of Mother’s parental rights before it had a conclusive determination of the children’s status in the Chippewa Cree Tribe and when it did not address whether the Department of Public Health and Human Services made “active efforts” to prevent the breakup of the Indian family and that those efforts were unsuccessful. Specifically, the Court held (1) where the district court had reason to believe that the children may be eligible for enrollment in the Chippewa Cree Tribe, the court failed to satisfy the threshold requirement of the Indian Child Welfare Act to verify the children’s eligibility; (2) the district court did not err when it did not address whether the Department provided “active efforts” pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 1912(d); and (3) Mother’s due process were not violated when the Department raised the issue of abandonment during closing arguments at the termination hearing and Mother’s counsel did not object. View "In re L.A.G." on Justia Law