Justia Native American Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
In re C.L.
Appellant R.L., presumed father (father) of minor C.L. (the minor), appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating father’s parental rights and freeing the minor for adoption. The minor was removed from his parents through a protective custody warrant under Welfare and Institutions Code section 340. Father contended the Amador County Department of Social Services (the department) failed to comply with the initial inquiry requirements of California law implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) because the department did not inquire of extended family members as to the minor’s Indian ancestry when he was removed. The Court of Appeal agreed with father and held that the duty to inquire of extended family members applied when removal is made via a section 340 protective custody warrant. Because the department failed to comply with this duty, remand was required. Remand was also required because father stated that his great-grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee at the detention hearing, triggering a duty of further inquiry into the minor’s Indian ancestry. This further inquiry duty was not satisfied. The Court therefore conditionally reversed the order terminating parental rights. View "In re C.L." on Justia Law
In re Jerry R.
A.R. (Father) and S.R. (Mother) appealed from the juvenile court’s orders terminating their parental rights to three of their children, under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26.1. Father’s sole claim, joined by Mother, is that because Stanislaus County Community Services Agency (agency) failed to conduct a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry into whether the children are or may be Indian children, the juvenile court erred when it found that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) did not apply. The Fifth Appellate District conditionally reversed the juvenile court’s finding that ICWA does not apply. The court explained that Section 224.2, subdivision (b), imposes on the county welfare department a broad duty to inquire whether a child placed into the temporary custody of the county under section 306 is or may be an Indian child. The court explained that at issue is whether a child taken into protective custody by warrant under section 340, subdivision (a) or (b) falls within the ambit of section 306, subdivision (a)(1). The court explained that based on the plain language of the statutes, it agrees with Delila D. that the answer is yes and, therefore, the inquiry mandated under section 224.2, subdivision (b), applies. The court further concluded that the juvenile court erred in finding the agency conducted a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry and that the error is prejudicial, which necessitates a conditional reversal of the court’s finding that ICWA does not apply and a limited remand so that an inquiry that comports with section 224.2, subdivision (b), may be conducted. View "In re Jerry R." on Justia Law
In re V.C.
In December 2019, the Alameda County Social Services Agency filed a petition (Welfare and Institutions Code 300(b)(1) and (j)) regarding infant V.C., with allegations that his mother tested positive for methamphetamine at V.C.’s birth, resulting in V.C. experiencing withdrawal symptoms. A social worker had spoken with both parents, who each “denied any Native American ancestry.” Both parents completed and filed “Parental Notification of Indian Status” forms, checking the box: “I have no Indian ancestry as far as I know,” under penalty of perjury.In March 2020, the juvenile court found the allegations true, declared the children dependents, removed them from parental custody, and ordered reunification services, concluding that each child “is not an Indian child and no further notice is required under” the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. 1901). In February 2021, the court terminated reunification services, set a section 366.26 hearing, and again concluded that ICWA did not apply. On remand for a new hearing concerning the beneficial relationship exception, the juvenile court again terminated parental rights, found “ICWA does not apply,” and identified adoption as the children’s permanent plan.The court of appeal conditionally reversed. The agency failed to comply with ICWA by not asking available extended family members about possible Indian ancestry. View "In re V.C." on Justia Law
In re Andres R.
A.R. (Father) appealed the juvenile court’s dispositional order adjudging his son a dependent of the court and removing the child from his custody. The court also ordered reunification services for Father. Father’s one-year-old son, Andres R., came to DPSS’s attention in May 2022, when D.P. (Mother) called law enforcement to report domestic violence. Months later, the child was deemed a dependent of the court based on a social worker's findings of the child's living environment and interviews with his siblings and his mother. On appeal, Father challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court’s jurisdictional finding and the removal order. He also argued that the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to comply with state law implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) . Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re Andres R." on Justia Law
In re Harris
Petitioner applied to the trial court in March 2022 to change his name. On the ground that Petitioner has “outstanding warrant(s),” the trial court denied Harris’s petition. The Second Appellate District affirmed because there was no abuse of discretion. The court explained that by statute, it was proper for the trial court to check law enforcement records when considering Petitioner’s petition to change his name. The California Legislature has directed courts to use the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) and Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) to determine whether a name change applicant must register as a sex offender. View "In re Harris" on Justia Law
In re Delila D.
This case concerns a social worker’s duty to inquire whether a child involved in a dependency proceeding “is or may be an Indian child” under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a duty commonly referred to as the “initial inquiry.” At issue in this appeal was whether the initial inquiry encompassed available extended family members in every proceeding where a child is removed from home or in only those cases where the social worker takes temporary custody of the child without a warrant under exigent circumstances. Here, the child was initially taken into the custody of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (the department) by protective custody warrant before being detained by the juvenile court and later removed at disposition. Reunification efforts failed, and the juvenile court ultimately terminated parental rights and freed the child for adoption. Relying on In re Robert F., 90 Cal.App.5th 492 (2023) the department argued that because the child wasn’t initially removed from home without a warrant, the duty to interview available to extended family members never arose. The Court of Appeal concluded there was only one duty of initial inquiry, and that duty encompasses available extended family members no matter how the child is initially removed from home. Applying a narrower initial inquiry to the subset of dependencies that begin with a temporary removal by warrant frustrates the purpose of the initial inquiry and “den[ies] tribes the benefit of the statutory promise” of Assembly Bill No. 3176 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.). Because the department in this case failed to ask the child’s available extended family members whether the child had any Native American ancestry, the Court conditionally reversed the order terminating parental rights and remanded for the juvenile court to direct the department to complete its investigation. View "In re Delila D." on Justia Law
Rancheria v. Martin
Plaintiff Greenville Rancheria (Greenville) was a sovereign Indian tribe that owned administrative and medical offices (property) in the City of Red Bluff. Following a contested election, defendant Angela Martin was elected as Greenville’s chairperson, which included the authority to act as Greenville’s chief executive officer. After her election, Martin, along with approximately 20 people, including defendants Andrea Cazares-Diego, Andrew Gonzales, Hallie Hugo, Elijah Martin, and Adrian Hugo, entered the property and refused to leave despite the remaining members of the tribal council ordering them to leave and removing Martin’s authority as chairperson under Greenville’s constitution. Because of defendants’ failure to vacate the property, Greenville filed a verified emergency complaint for trespass and injunctive relief. The trial court granted Greenville a temporary restraining order, but later granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Greenville appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed: defendants did not point to any authority demonstrating the federal government’s intent to preempt state law or deprive state courts of subject matter jurisdiction in property disputes between tribal members occurring on lands outside tribal trust lands. "To conclude we lack jurisdiction over property disputes between tribal members on nontribal lands would limit tribal members’ access to state court, especially considering California courts have subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Public Law 280 over property disputes between tribal members on tribal trust lands. (Section 1360.) Consequently, the state court has jurisdiction to hear Greenville’s dispute against defendants regarding land it owns in fee simple that is not held in trust by the federal government." View "Rancheria v. Martin" on Justia Law
Corrales v. Cal. Gambling Control Com.
The lawsuit giving rise to this appeal was brought by Plaintiff-appellant Manuel Corrales, on behalf of himself, against the California Gambling Control Commission (the Commission) and the two competing factions of the California Valley Miwok Tribe (the Tribe), including his former client, the "Burley faction." In the Court of Appeals' preceding opinion, CVMT 2020, the Court affirmed, on res judicata grounds, the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by attorney Corrales against the Commission on behalf of the Burley faction. Through this lawsuit, Corrales sought to ensure that he received payment from the Tribe for the attorney fees that he claims he was due under a fee agreement he entered into with the Burley faction in 2007. Specifically, even though the Tribe’s leadership dispute was still not resolved, Corrales sought either (1) an order requiring the Commission to make immediate payment to him from the Tribe’s RSTF money, or (2) an order that when the Commission eventually decides to release the Indian Gaming Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF) money to the Tribe, his attorney fees had to be paid directly to him by the Commission before the remainder of the funds were released to the Tribe. The trial court dismissed Corrales’s lawsuit because the question of whether Burley represented the Tribe in 2007 for the purpose of entering into a binding fee agreement with Corrales on behalf of the Tribe required the resolution of an internal tribal leadership and membership dispute, over which the courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction. After judgment was entered, Corrales brought a motion for a new trial and a motion for relief from default. Among other things, Corrales argued that the trial court should have stayed his lawsuit rather than dismissing it. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's dismissal, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Corrales v. Cal. Gambling Control Com." on Justia Law
In re H.B.
S.B. (father) appealed from the juvenile court’s order terminating his parental rights over his daughter H.B. pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code1 section 366.26. Father contends only that the juvenile court erred in finding the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) inapplicable based on the record of inquiry made by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) with H.B.’s extended family members. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the Department inquired about Indian ancestry with representatives from both sides of two generational levels of H.B.’s family. It contacted every person its interviewees identified as a likely source of information about ancestry. The juvenile court had an adequate basis on which to conclude the Department fulfilled its inquiry obligations under section 224.2, subdivision (b), and that neither the Department nor the court had reason to know or believe that H.B. is an Indian child. Under the court’s deferential standard of review, the juvenile court did not need the Department to contact every unnamed extended family member that had attended a court hearing, regardless of difficulty in doing so, to reach its conclusion. View "In re H.B." on Justia Law
In re Ja.O.
A.C. (Mother) challenged a juvenile court’s dispositional finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 did not apply to the dependency proceedings to her five children. Mother contended that San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry under Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2 (b). After review of the juvenile court record, the Court of Appeal concluded that Mother’s argument lacked merit and therefore affirmed. View "In re Ja.O." on Justia Law