Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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C.V. (Mother) appealed an order issued under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.261 selecting adoption as the permanent plan for her son N.S. and terminating her parental rights. N.S.’s father was a member of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians (the Tribe). The Tribe was involved in this case since the juvenile court found that N.S. was an Indian child and that the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) (ICWA) applied. On appeal, Mother contended: (1) the Tribe’s “decree” selecting guardianship as the best permanent plan option for N.S. preempted the statutory preference for adoption under section 366.26; (2) N.S.’s counsel breached his duties under section 317 and provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to discover what Tribal benefits or membership rights were available to N.S. before the termination of parental rights; (3) the court erred in finding that the Indian child exception of section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(B)(vi)(I) and (II) did not apply to preclude termination of parental rights; (4) there was insufficient evidence to support the court’s finding beyond a reasonable doubt that continued custody in Mother’s care would be a substantial risk to N.S.; and (5) the court erred in finding that the beneficial parent-child relationship exception of section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(B)(i) does not apply to preclude termination of parental rights. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re N.S." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's jurisdictional findings and dispositional orders, holding that substantial evidence supports the juvenile court's finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) does not apply here. Mother contends that the juvenile court and DCFS failed to satisfy the formal notice requirements under the ICWA and related California law.In this case, the initial inquiry conducted by the juvenile court created a "reason to believe" the children possibly are Indian children; DCFS's repeated efforts to gather information concerning the children's maternal ancestry constitutes substantial evidence that DCFS met its duty of further inquiry; but the juvenile court and DCFS's further investigation did not yield results that pushed their reason to believe the children are Indian children, to reason to know the children are Indian children. The court explained that a suggestion of Indian ancestry is not sufficient under ICWA or related California law to trigger the notice requirement. Because DCFS was not required to provide formal notice to the pertinent tribes, the court did not reach Mother's argument that the ICWA notices may have lacked necessary information. View "In re Dominic F." on Justia Law

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Rosas filed a representative action based on alleged participation in illegal internet payday loan practices. Defendant AMG is a wholly-owned tribal corporation of Miami Tribe, a federally recognized Indigenous American tribe. Rosas previously challenged a court order granting AMG's motion to quash service of summons for lack of jurisdiction based on tribal sovereign immunity. On remand, the court granted AMG’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity. The court accepted AMG’s argument that the arm-of-the-tribe test should be applied to the current facts relating to its ownership and control rather than the facts that existed when the complaint was filed. The court credited AMG’s new, undisputed evidence concerning significant changes made to AMG’s structure and governance since the prior court ruling—changes that removed the nontribal actors from positions of authority and control and ended its involvement in the business of financial lending.The court of appeal affirmed. The court did not exceed the scope of the remand. When a court determines that a tribal entity is entitled to immunity from suit, the court lacks the authority, absent the tribe’s consent or federal authorization, to bring the tribal entity before the court for any purpose, including for the purpose of sanctioning misconduct. View "In re Internet Lending Cases" on Justia Law

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This case began when, in December 2016, plaintiff-respondent San Bernardino Children and Family Services (CFS) learned that Mother threatened to physically abuse J.W., the youngest of her two daughters, then one year old. Mother had called 911 and threatened to stab herself and J.W. Police officers detained Mother and temporarily committed her pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150. CFS’s detention reports stated that, a few weeks prior, Mother had moved to California from Louisiana, where she had been living with A.W., J.W.'s father. According to a family friend, Mother was spiraling into depression in Louisiana and had mentioned relinquishing her children to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. The family friend urged Mother to come live with her in California, which she did. The family friend also informed CFS that in 2010 Mother had suffered traumatic brain injuries requiring dozens of surgeries, from a car accident that killed Mother’s mother and sister. Since the accident, Mother had suffered from grand mal seizures and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. CFS petitioned for J.W. and her older half-sister L.M. After the detention hearing, the juvenile court found a prima facie case and detained the children. Although the detention reports noted Mother’s recent move from Louisiana, CFS did not address whether there was jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, and the juvenile court made no finding concerning the UCCJEA. Ultimately Mother's rights to the children were terminated. A.W. challenged the termination, contending the juvenile court failed to comply with the UCCJEA, such that Louisiana should have been the forum for the case. Mother contended the juvenile court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The Court of Appeal determined that, even assuming the juvenile court lacked UCCJEA jurisdiction, A.W. forfeited the ability to raise his argument on appeal. "Forfeiture would not apply if the UCCJEA provisions governing jurisdiction implicated the courts’ fundamental jurisdiction, but...they do not." The Court determined there was no failure to apply the ICWA, “ICWA does not obligate the court or [child protective agencies] ‘to cast about’ for investigative leads.” View "In re J.W." on Justia Law

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The Sacramento County Department of Child, Family and Adult Services (Department) filed a dependency petition on behalf of the newborn minor pursuant to Welf. & Inst. Code section 300, subdivisions (b) and (j). The petition alleged the minor suffered, or was at substantial risk of suffering, harm due to substance abuse by mother and alleged father M.W. The petition further alleged substantial risk to the minor due to the abuse or neglect of, and eventual termination of mother’s parental rights over, the minor’s three half-siblings. Mother and M.W. reported they believed M.W. was the minor’s biological father but requested a paternity test for confirmation. Mother also reported the maternal grandfather had Native American heritage with the Apache Tribe, later confirming her claim in her parental notification of Indian status form (ICWA-020). M.W. denied having any Indian ancestry. At a detention hearing, the juvenile court made ICWA orders as to mother and ordered the minor detained. The Department interviewed mother in custody, and learned A.C. (father) could potentially be the minor's biological father. No parent was present for a January 2019 jurisdiction/disposition hearing. The court ordered the Department to continue its search for father and, upon locating him, inform him of the proceedings and his options for establishing paternity, and to make ICWA inquiry. Father appeared in court on March 27, 2019, and requested paternity testing to determine whether the minor was his biological child. By May 2019, father was given court appointed counsel, and was found to be the minor's biological father. Because family members refused to cooperate with a social worker's investigation, twelve tribes were contacted for help determining the minor's status as an Indian Child. Ten confirmed the minor was not an Indian for purposes of the ICWA, and the remainder did not respond by the time of the hearing. The court ruled the ICWA did not appeal as to the minor, and Father's parental rights to the child were ultimately terminated. He appealed, arguing the Department failed to comply with the ICWA. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's ICWA ruling and termination of parental rights. View "In re M.W." on Justia Law

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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