2017 State Court Cases

Last updated: June 21, 2017
Next update should be ready by: July 11, 2017

Recently Added Cases:

In Interest of L.M.B.
2017 WL 2617155
Court of Appeals of Kansas.
June 16, 2017

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act - Expert Witnesses

Older Cases:








Gila River Indian Community v. Department of Child Safety
2017 WL 2544513
Supreme Court of Arizona.
No. CV-16-0220-PR
June 13, 2017

*Synopsis: Following termination of parental rights with respect to a child, who was an eligible member of an Indian community, the community moved, pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), for an order transferring jurisdiction of the remaining proceedings to tribal court. The Superior Court, Maricopa County, No. JD528014, Karen L. O'Connor, J., denied the motion. The community appealed. The Court of Appeals, Winthrop, J., 240 Ariz. 385, 379 P.3d 1016, affirmed and found that ICWA did not allow transfer to tribal court of state preadoptive and adoptive placement proceedings occurring after parental rights were terminated. The community's application for further review was granted.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Bales, C.J., held that:
1) ICWA provision, setting forth presumption that foster care placement and termination of parental rights actions involving Indian children not domiciled within Indian reservation should be transferred from state to tribal court, did not govern community's motion to transfer adoptive placement proceedings to tribal court;
2) ICWA provision did not prohibit state courts from transferring preadoptive or adoptive placement actions to tribal courts, although provision did not govern the transfer of such actions; and
3) community did not impliedly waive its right to seek transfer of adoptive proceeding by not seeking transfer until after parental rights were terminated.
Opinion of Court of Appeals vacated.

Related News Stories: Arizona Supreme Court limits rights of tribes to intercede in adoption cases (Arizona Capitol Times) 6/13/17, Gila River Indian Community weighs options after losing Indian Child Welfare Act case (Indianz) 8/15/16

In re JJW and ELW, Minors. In re Williams, Minors.
2017 WL 2491888
No. 334095, No. 335932
Court of Appeals of Michigan
June 8, 2017

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act - Placement

Aron Security, INC. v. Unkechaug Indian Nation
2017 WL 2454402
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.
June 7, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity


People in interest of A.O.
2017 WL 2290151
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
May 24, 2017

*Synopsis: In child abuse and neglect case, motions were filed to transfer the jurisdiction of case to Indian tribe. The Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Pennington County, Robert Mandel, J., denied the motions without a hearing and terminated mother's parental rights. Mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Gilbertson, C.J., held that trial court was required to conduct an evidentiary hearing on Indian tribe's petition to transfer child abuse and neglect case to the tribe.
Reversed and remanded.

Matter of C.B.D.
394 P.3d 202
DA 16-0575
Supreme Court of Montana.
May 9, 2017

*Synopsis: Department of Health and Human Services petitioned for termination of mother's parental rights to child, who qualified as Indian child under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The 13th Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, No. DN 14-142, Mary Jane Knisely, J., terminated mother's parental rights. Mother appealed only with respect to child's placement.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, James Jeremiah Shea, J., held that mother effectively divested herself of any standing to participate in child's placement by appealing only placement of child, while foregoing appeal of termination of parental rights.

People In Interest of A.D.
2017 WL 1739170
Colorado Court of Appeals, Div. IV.
May 4, 2017

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act - Application


Jude M. v. State of Alaska
394 P.3d 543
Supreme Court, of Alaska,
Supreme Court No. S-16233
April 28, 2017

*Synopsis: Office of Children's Services (OCS) filed petition to terminate father's parental rights to Native American child adjudicated as child in need of aid. The Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Andrew Guidi, J., declined to terminate parental rights, but instead established long-term guardianship over child placed with foster family out-of-state. Father appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Maassen, J., held that:
1) superior court had statutory authority to establish long-term guardianship over child after it declined to terminate father's parental rights; Affirmed.
2) regulation prohibiting agency from placing child in guardianship without evidence that parental rights have been terminated or suspended did not apply;
3) long-term guardianship was not de facto termination of father's parental rights that failed to comply with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA);
4) active efforts were made to provide remedial and rehabilitative services designed to prevent breakup of family, as prerequisite to foster care placement/guardianship under ICWA;
5) 4 active efforts were made to provide remedial and rehabilitative services designed to prevent breakup of family, as prerequisite to foster care placement/guardianship under ICWA; 5 determination that father, who was convicted sex offender, posed significant risk of re-offending and that risk encompassed child, was not supported by expert testimony;
6) evidence supported finding that father was unable to meet child's caregiving needs, and thus, that father's continued custody of child was likely to result in serious emotional or physical harm;
7) evidence supported finding that long-term guardianship under current foster family placement was in child's best interest.
Vacated; remanded.

Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General RE: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
215 So.3d 1209
No. SC16-778
No. SC16-871
Supreme Court of Florida
April 20, 2017

*Synopsis: Attorney General filed petition seeking an opinion as to the validity of a proposed citizen initiative petition, titled Voter Control of Gambling in Florida, which would require "casino gambling," as defined by the proposal, to be authorized only through the citizens' initiative process.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court held that:
1) petition satisfied state constitutional single subject requirement;
2) proposal's ballot title and summary provided fair notice of the content of the proposed amendment to voters as required by statute; and
3) petition's financial impact statement, though indefinite, complied with legal requirements.
Initiative approved for placement on ballot.

In re J. L.
10 Cal.App.5th 913
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.
April 4, 2017

*Synopsis: County health and human services agency filed dependency petitions pertaining to mother's two minor children. After declaring children dependents of the court and terminating mother's reunification services, the Superior Court, San Diego County, No. NJ14573AB, Michael J. Imhoff, Commissioner, terminated mother's parental rights and selected a permanent plan of adoption for each child. Mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, Aaron, J., held that:
1) Indian Child Welfare Act's (ICWA) inquiry and notice provisions did not apply, and
2) agency did not abdicate its notice and inquiry responsibilities under ICWA by placing burden on mother to provide further information regarding child's heritage.


People In Interest of L.L.
2017 WL 1089561
Court of Appeals No. 16CA1222
Colorado Court of Appeals, Div. VI.
March 23, 2017

*Synopsis: Following jury trial in dependency and neglect proceeding, the Juvenile Court, City and County of Denver, No. 16JV510, D. Brett Woods, J., adjudicated child dependent and neglected and then held dispositional hearing. Mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Furman, J., held that:
1) trial court was required to comply with notice requirements of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) even though mother did not state that child was member of tribe or that mother was member of tribe, and
2) for the adjudicatory hearing in a dependency and neglect proceeding, the State is only required to prove the allegations set forth in the petition by a preponderance of the evidence in all adjudications, whether Indian or non-Indian children.
Reversed and remanded with directions.

Related News Stories: Colorado Court of Appeals: dependency and neglect court should have followed ICWA's notice requirements (Legal Connection) 3/31/17

In re Rhoades
10 Cal.App.5th 896
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.
March 22, 2017

*Synopsis: Prisoner filed petition for writ of habeas corpus under Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), challenging prison's prohibition on the use of straight tobacco during prisoners' Native American religious ceremonies. The Superior Court denied petition. Prisoner filed a new petition in the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal issued an order to show cause returnable in the Superior Court. The Superior Court, Imperial County, No. EHC01917, Raymond A. Cota, J., granted petition. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, O'Rourke, Acting P.J., held that:
1) trial court was required to hold an evidentiary hearing and consider evidence on the disputed factual issues, and
2) RLUIPA entitled prisoner to use straight tobacco during ceremonies only if prison's prohibition on straight tobacco substantially burdened prisoner's religious exercise and was not the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.
Reversed and remanded with directions.

Cougar Den, Inc. v. Washington State Department of Licensing
188 Wash.2d 55
No. 92289-6
Supreme Court of Washington.
March 16, 2017

*Synopsis: Confederated tribes and bands of Indian nation appealed decision of the Director of the State Department of Licensing that tribe's right to travel on highways did not preempt state fuel taxes. The Superior Court, Yakima County, No. 14-2-03851-7, Michael G. McCarthy, J., reversed. Department appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, O'Rourke, Acting P.J., held that:
The Supreme Court, Johnson, J., held that tribes were entitled under treaty to import fuel without holding importer's license and without paying state fuel taxes.

Rice v. McDonald
390 P.3d 1133
Supreme Court No. S-16218
Supreme Court of Alaska.
March 3, 2017

*Synopsis: Maternal relative filed custody petition against paternal relative, seeking custody of three Indian children after father allegedly killed their mother and seeking to vacate Texas order that awarded custody of the children to paternal relative. The Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, No. 4FA-14-03084 CI, Michael A. MacDonald, J., dismissed case and ceded jurisdiction to Texas. Maternal relative appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Bolger, J., held that:
1) dispute between maternal relative and paternal relative as to who should have custody of three Indian children was child custody proceeding involving Indian children, and thus, Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applied to the proceeding;
2) protection from domestic violence factor favored Alaska, and thus, trial court abused its discretion by minimizing importance of protecting Indian children from father's alleged domestic violence when declining to exercise its jurisdiction over child custody proceeding; and
3) nature and location of evidence factor favored Alaska, and thus, trial court abused its discretion by minimizing evidence required to resolve domestic violence and ICWA issues when declining to exercise its jurisdiction over child custody proceeding.
Vacated and remanded.


Lundgren v. Upper Skagit Indian Tribe
187 Wash.2d 857
No. 91622-53
Supreme Court of Washington.

*Synopsis: Property owners brought action against Indian tribe, which owned land adjacent to owners' property, seeking to quiet title to property that owners claimed to have acquired through adverse possession before original owner sold adjacent property to the tribe. Tribe moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on tribe's sovereign immunity. The Superior Court, Skagit County, Dave Needy, J., denied motion, and Susan K. Cook, J., granted summary judgment to property owners. Tribe moved for direct discretionary review, and the Supreme Court accepted.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Johnson, J., held that tribe did not have interest in disputed property, and thus, tribe's sovereign immunity presented no barrier to the in rem adverse possession proceeding.

Related News Stories: Washington Supreme Court rejects sovereign immunity defense in quiet title action (National Law Review) 3/21/17

Kaplan v. State
147 A.D.3d 1315
Supreme Court, Appellate Division,
Fourth Department, New York

*Synopsis: Taxpayer brought declaratory judgment action alleging that State of New York ceded its taxation authority to the federal government by entering into the settlement agreement with Indian tribe, thereby violating State Constitution. The Supreme Court, Oneida County, Bernadette T. Clark, J., dismissed action. Taxpayer appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that State did not violate provision of State Constitution that prohibited State from surrendering or contracting away its power of taxation.


Quinault Indian Nation v. Imperium Terminal Services, LLC
187 Wash.2d 460
No. 92552-6
Supreme Court of Washington.

*Synopsis: Owners of terminals for storing petroleum products applied for substantial shoreline development permit (SSDP) based on plans to expand their operations. After the Department of Ecology (DOE) and the city issued mitigated determinations of nonsignificance (MDNS) and permits, a Native American tribe and citizens groups appealed. The Shoreline Hearings Board granted motions for partial summary judgment filed by tribe, citizens group, and owners. Tribe and citizens group appealed to the Court of Appeals, which accepted direct review. The Court of Appeals, Johanson, C.J., 190 Wash.App. 696, 360 P.3d 949, affirmed Board's grant of summary judgment. Tribe and citizens group sought review by Supreme Court, which was granted.

*Holdings: As matters of first impression, the Supreme Court, Owens, J., held that:
1) owners' proposed expansion projects, which would facilitate the storage of additional fuel products that would arrive by train or truck and depart by ocean-bound ship, triggered review of owners' permit applications under Ocean Resources Management Act's (ORMA) statutory framework;
2)owners' proposed expansion projects qualified as "ocean uses" as defined in DOE's regulation implementing ORMA;
3) owners' proposed expansion projects qualified as "transportation" as defined in DOE's regulation implementing ORMA; and
4) owners' proposed expansion projects qualified as "coastal uses" as defined in DOE's regulation implementing ORMA.
Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Quinault Indian Nation wins... again (Native News Online) 6/2/17

S.S. v. Stephanie H.
241 Ariz. 419
No. 1 CA–JV 16–0163
Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1.

*Synopsis: Ex-husband, who was an Indian parent, brought private severance proceeding, seeking to sever parental rights of ex-wife, who was a non-Indian parent, alleging abandonment and neglect. Indian tribe intervened in case. The Superior Court, La Paz County, Douglas Camacho, Judge Pro Tempore, granted ex-wife's motion to dismiss because it found ex-husband had not offered sufficient evidence to prove unsuccessful active efforts to prevent breakup of the family. Children appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Johnsen, J., held that:
1) Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies to a private termination of parental rights proceeding;
2)ICWA applied to private severance proceeding brought by ex-husband; and
3) evidence was sufficient to support finding that any active efforts to encourage ex-wife to address her drug issues had been successful, as required by ICWA.

Department of Human Services v. M. L. M.
283 Or.App. 353
Court of Appeals of Oregon.

*Synopsis: The Department of Human Services (DHS) petitioned to terminate mother and father's parental rights to Indian child. The Circuit Court, Douglas County, Ann Marie Simmons, J., terminated parental rights. Parents appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Flynn, J., held that:
1) DHS made active efforts to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, as required under Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA);
2) DHS' active efforts were unsuccessful; and
3)expert testimony supported finding that parents' custody of child would result in serious emotional or physical damage.

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