Attorneys for 3-year-old Veronica’s father asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to halt a South Carolina order to complete the toddler’s adoption.
Dusten Brown’s request for a stay of the S.C. Supreme Court’s judgment was expected. The court typically decides whether to grant a stay within a few business days unless it asks opposing attorneys for a response.
As early as next week, Charleston County Family Court could finalize the adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island. They’ve already submitted a transition plan for Veronica’s return to the Lowcountry.
At 27 months, the girl went to live with Brown in Oklahoma after he invoked the Indian Child Welfare Act. She has lived there for the past 19 months, during which time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the ICWA didn’t apply to Brown, a Cherokee Nation member, and asked the state’s high court to determine who should raise her.
In Brown’s filing Friday, his attorneys said S.C. Supreme Court wrongly interpreted the decision in Washington by requiring a custody switch without first considering Veronica’s interests.
The attorneys also said the state ruling misapplied the ICWA, which gives preference to tribal members when an American Indian child is up for adoption.
Brown, his wife and his parents all filed to adopt the girl after the federal ruling, but none of them had done so when the Family Court first considered the case two years ago.
Brown’s attorneys said that the ICWA preference provision still applies and that dissenting U.S. Supreme Court justices had agreed that Brown could mount an attempt to adopt Veronica. The justices in the majority didn’t specifically disagree with that point, the attorneys noted.
They cited experts who said the order to finalize the adoption was “shameful” and “terrible.”
“Denying a stay would force an immediate and traumatic change” for Veronica, said the attorneys led by Charles Rothfeld of Washington. “That change is unwarranted and ultimately would be undone.”
Lori Alvino McGill, the Washington attorney for Veronica’s birth mother, said the new filing presented no new questions of law that need federal review. The case instead entails two sides who disagree on how state courts should decide an adoption.
“This long saga has finally come to an end, and we expect Veronica’s long-overdue transition home to begin as planned next week,” Alvino McGill said. “I hope that some of the disturbing rhetoric ... will dissipate soon, so as not to cause any further trauma in this little girl’s life.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.