Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's jurisdictional and dispositional orders concerning seven of Mother's children. Leslie is the presumed father of the four older children and Edward is the presumed father of the three younger children. The court held that the juvenile court had subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In this case, California was the children's home state for purposes of the UCCJEA, and thus California courts have jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination. The court also held that the duties under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 were not met with respect to Edward's side of the family, but were met with respect to Mother's and Leslie's side of the family. View "In re Austin J." on Justia Law

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A.M. (Mother) appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating her parental rights as to her two children, 11-year-old A.M. and six-year-old J.T., Jr. In late 2017, DPSS received an immediate response referral with allegations of general neglect and sexual abuse. It was reported that Mother had allowed her two sons to go into a hotel room for hours with an 18-year-old male stranger who sexually abused them. After Mother discovered the sexual abuse, she failed to report the alleged crime to law enforcement. Instead, the suspect disclosed what he had done to his mother, who then drove the suspect to the police station to turn himself in. On appeal, Mother argued: (1) the order terminating her parental rights should have been reversed because the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to comply with the inquiry and notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and with Welfare and Institutions Code section 224 et seq; and (2) all orders had to be reversed because the juvenile court failed to comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) because California did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal rejected Mother’s contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "In re A.M." on Justia Law

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M.J. (Mother) appeals the order entered following the jurisdiction and disposition hearing in the juvenile dependency case of her minor child, D.S. D.S. was living with his paternal aunt (Aunt), later determined to be his presumed mother. The Agency alleged D.S.'s father was deceased, Mother had previously caused the death of another minor, and Aunt was no longer able to care for D.S. As discussed in the detention report, Mother's parental rights were terminated after she was charged and convicted of killing D.S.'s brother. D.S. had been placed in the care of his father, who subsequently died suddenly in March 2018. Aunt assumed care for D.S., but reported to the Agency that she could not currently care for D.S. due to her own health issues. In a report prepared for the jurisdiction and disposition hearing, the Agency detailed its inquiry into whether the Indian Child Welfare Act applied to the proceedings. The Agency stated: (1) Mother denied having any Indian heritage; (2) D.S.'s great-grandmother stated that her great-grandmother (D.S.'s great-great-great-great-grandmother) was "affiliated with the Sioux and Blackfeet tribes;" (3) Aunt denied that she or [her grandmother] have ever lived on an Indian reservation, have a tribal enrollment number or identification card indicating membership/citizenship in an Indian tribe; and (4) Aunt denied she has any reason to believe D.S. was an Indian child. Mother contended the court erred by not complying with the inquiry provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Court of Appeal concluded after review that the juvenile court's finding that the Agency completed its further inquiry was supported by the evidence. Similarly, there is substantial evidence supporting the juvenile court's conclusion that "there is no reason to believe or know that [ICWA] applies." View "In re D.S." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal conditionally reversed the juvenile court's disposition order removing father's children from his custody and continuing their placement in foster care. The court held that CWS was required to complete its Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) inquiry and notification process at least 10 days before the disposition hearing, because CWS sought continuance of foster care. Accordingly, the court remanded to the juvenile court for the limited purpose of allowing CWS to comply with ICWA. View "In re N.D." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether Riverside County, California could impose a tax on possessory interests in federally owned land set aside for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians or its members. In 1971, Court held that it could, holding in part that federal law did not preempt the tax. The tax was also upheld that year by the Ninth Circuit. Since then, the United States Supreme Court articulated a new preemption framework in considering whether states may tax Indian interests, and the Department of the Interior promulgated new Indian leasing regulations, the preamble of which stated that state taxation was precluded. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal concluded, as it did in 1971, this possessory interest tax was valid. View "Herpel v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Mother C.W. and father J.C. appealed a juvenile court’s orders terminating parental rights and freeing the minor for adoption. The parents contended the juvenile court erred in failing to find the beneficial parental relationship exception to adoption applied, and that the county and juvenile court failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). After review of the specific facts of this case, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the parents’ first contention, but conditionally reversed and remanded the matter for further ICWA compliance. View "In re A.W." on Justia Law

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Defendant Native Wholesale Supply Company (NWS), an Indian-chartered corporation headquartered on a reservation in New York, sold over a billion contraband cigarettes to an Indian tribe in California, which then sold the cigarettes to the general public in California. The cigarettes were imported from Canada, stored at various places in the United States (not including California), and then shipped to California after they were ordered from the reservation in New York. The California Attorney General succeeded on his motion for summary judgment holding NWS liable for civil penalties in violation of two California cigarette distribution and sale laws and Business and Professions Code section 17200 (the unfair competition law), and obtained a permanent injunction precluding NWS from making future sales. The Attorney General further obtained an award of attorney fees and expert expenses. NWS appealed the judgment and the attorney fee order. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Native Wholesale Supply Co." on Justia Law

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Huber, a member of the Wiyot Band of Indians, owns and operates a tobacco smoke shop on the Table Bluff Rancheria, near Crescent City. Huber “sold huge quantities of noncompliant cigarettes and transported at least 14,727,290 packs to other stores within the state but beyond her reservation; she invoiced over $30 million for these sales. Her employees delivered the cigarettes using her vehicles on state roads. The Attorney General sued, alleging violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL), citing as predicate “unlawful acts” violations the Tax Stamp Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30161), the Directory Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30165.1(e)(2)), and the Fire Safety Act (Health & Saf. Code, 14951(a)). The trial court granted summary adjudication and entered a permanent injunction on all three claims. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Huber’s arguments that, under a federal statute granting California courts plenary criminal jurisdiction but limited civil jurisdiction over cases arising on Indian reservations, the trial court lacked authority to proceed on any of the claims, and that, under the doctrine of Indian preemption, which limits the reach of state law to conduct by Indians on Indian reservations, all the statutes were preempted by paramount federal authority. To the extent enforcement occurs off-reservation, the Wiyot right to self-governance is not implicated. View "People v. Huber" on Justia Law

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The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA; 25 U.S.C. 1901) gives Indian tribes the right to intervene in dependency proceedings regarding Indian children where foster care placement or termination of parental rights is being sought. The party initiating dependency proceedings must provide the tribe with notice. The Santa Clara County Department of Family and Services filed a juvenile dependency petition on behalf of nine-year-old L.D. At the initial hearing, Mother informed the court of Native Alaskan ancestry. At the dispositional hearing, the Department reported that it had sent notice, in November 2017, to the Native Village of Tanana, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Secretary of the Interior. Receiving no objections, the court found the notice satisfied ICWA. The court found that Mother had sexually abused L.D., who was removed from Mother’s custody with the expectation she would be placed with her maternal grandfather who had been caring for her informally for years. Following another hearing, the court issued a three-year restraining order protecting L.D. from mother. The court later found Mother in violation of the order. Mother filed an appeal from that order but her briefing did not address the restraining order, instead challenging the finding regarding ICWA compliance. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal as untimely but noted that the Department conceded that its notice was inadequate and that notification efforts are continuing. View "In re L.D." 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