Hearing to address order for attorneys to divulge information in Veronica case
Attorneys for Veronica’s birth father next week will challenge a judge’s request for them to give up the 3-year-old’s whereabouts and what they knew about their client’s resistance to an order finalizing her adoption.
Judge Daniel Martin of the Charleston County Family Court approved the adoption last week. But after the toddler and Dusten Brown didn’t show up for a visitation with the girl’s adoptive parents, he ordered Brown’s attorneys to hand over the information.
Brown’s family has said that the girl is safe at home in Nowata, Okla.
One of the two attorneys, John Nichols of Columbia, said the judge asked him and attorney Shannon Jones of Charleston to appear at 3 p.m. Wednesday to discuss Martin’s information request and some motions filed before the adoption was finalized.
“We’ve just asked him to reconsider,” Nichols said Friday.
Jones said only that she would be “seeking justice.”
South Carolina bars parties in an adoption from appealing a final decree because of “defect or irregularity.” It does allow appeals based on “extrinsic fraud,” defined as something that “induces a person not to present a case or deprives a person of the opportunity to be heard.”
Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the James Island couple now considered the adoptive parents, attended the previous hearing July 31, but Brown was training with the Army National Guard in Iowa.
The military activity was why Brown’s representatives said he missed the scheduled meeting Sunday, when a plan to reintroduce Veronica to the Capobiancos was scheduled to start.
Martin then demanded an immediate custody transfer and asked federal and state prosecutors to help find Veronica.
In a statement Friday, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said her role in helping the court was “unusual and rare.” Wilson said she was “working day and night” with law agencies to bring Veronica back to Charleston.
But there is no simple, swift way to end the saga, she said.
“There are many legal reasons ... that law enforcement cannot swoop down into Oklahoma and immediately whisk Baby V home to her parents,” she said. “Our states have agreed upon legal procedures to enforce custody matters.”
Like Wilson, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said he couldn’t discuss specifics.
“We’re doing everything we can to address the situation,” Cannon told The Post and Courier. “We’re proceeding as expeditiously as possible.”
Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo of the Cherokee Nation, which has aided Brown’s legal fight to maintain custody, already has said that attorneys could fight the adoption decree in Oklahoma state and tribal courts. Law dictates a confirmation process for an out-of-state adoption order before Oklahoma authorities can enforce it.
Attorneys could argue that South Carolina did not have the jurisdiction to complete the adoption, she said.
“To my knowledge, a state has never finalized the adoption of a child who was in another state when the action was filed and in another state when the action was finalized,” Nimmo said. “There are multiple other South Carolina laws that were violated.”
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the Indian Child Welfare Act didn’t apply to Brown, dissenting justices said that his American Indian relatives could file adoption petitions and that the courts would have to consider them under the ICWA.
The Cherokee Nation court will consider the jurisdictional arguments Sept. 4 in Oklahoma.
But Donald Cofsky of New Jersey, president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said further litigation might hurt the ICWA. He noted a lawsuit recently filed by a dozen birth mothers, including Veronica’s, asking for officials to declare portions of the law unconstitutional.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken,” Cofsky said. “That should have been the end of it.”
Brown’s attorneys, he said, are “doing themselves a tremendous disservice by dragging this out.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.