Maine joins South Carolina in adoption lawsuit before Supreme Court

  • Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 12:01 a.m.

— Maine is joining South Carolina and several other states in defending a federal law that deals with Indian adoption rights and will be a central topic in a case that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court next month, Attorney General Janet Mills announced Thursday.

Mills said Maine signed onto an amicus brief in the case defending the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. She said the case has implications in Maine, where a process is under way to investigate systematic removal of tribal children from their households before passage of the Indian Child Welfare law.

The S.C. case involves 3-year-old Veronica, or Little Star, as she is known to the Cherokee. She was born in Oklahoma to a father who is a Cherokee Nation member and a non-tribal mother.

The mother put up the child for adoption, and a non-Indian family, Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, adopted her. Mills said the father was a member of the military and was notified of the planned adoption four days before his scheduled deployment to Iraq.

In a case challenging the adoption, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that it violated the Indian Child Welfare Act, which gives a parent of a tribal member strong preference for custody. The child was ordered back to Oklahoma to be with her biological father, Dusten Brown.

Attorneys for the Capobiancos argue that the “human tragedy” of removing Veronica from the couple’s home was neither mandated by the act nor permitted by the Constitution.

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