The birth mother of Veronica Capobianco, the child at the center of an adoption battle last year, has dropped her constitutional challenge to the law at the dispute's heart.
Christinna Maldonado's attorney said Wednesday that the Oklahoma mother wanted to end the lawsuit once Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island were reunited with Veronica, now 4.
But the Washington lawyer, Lori Alvino McGill, said proponents of the Indian Child Welfare Act might face similar litigation in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for the Capobiancos' adoption to be finalized.
McGill said she doesn't have any immediate plans to be involved in such a measure. Her suit had called on a federal judge to declare portions of the ICWA unconstitutional.
"Because this is a serious and recurring constitutional issue impacting the rights of child-bearing women who have no connection whatsoever to any tribe, I suspect another lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of ICWA will be filed in the not-too-distant future," McGill said, "though it obviously takes resources and a lot of guts."
Maldonado's suit came in July after South Carolina's top court approved the adoption, an order that sparked weeks of legal wrangling. The custody ordeal ended in September, when Veronica's birth father was forced to give her up.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Dusten Brown didn't have a right to Veronica under the ICWA because he had not been involved in the mother's life before the birth. The top justices said that South Carolina courts had erred in allowing Brown to get custody from the Capobiancos, who had cared for Veronica during her first 27 months while trying to adopt her.
The ICWA was enacted in the 1970s to keep American Indian children with their native families and cultures. Brown is a member of the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation.
Maldonado's lawsuit, which was joined by women in similar situations nationwide, focused on ICWA provisions that, it contended, trampled a birth mother's right to choose who raises her newborn when the child's father isn't in the picture. It asked a federal judge to rule that portion of the law unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment's equal protection and due process clauses.
But the defendants in the suit, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Cherokee Nation, never were served with documents. In late January, it was quietly dropped in Charleston federal court.
Chrissi Nimmo, the Cherokee Nation's assistant attorney general, said she learned of the suit's dismissal last week. "We are definitely relieved," she said. "We always believed the suit lacked merit."
The dispute that Nimmo and McGill were involved in last year spanned more than two months. It ended when Brown's attempts to stop a change of custody fell flat in Oklahoma courts.
The saga also prompted a lawsuit from Brown's supporters.
Also in late July, Oklahoma attorney Angel Smith, who was said to represent Veronica, sued the Charleston County Family Court judge who approved the adoption. Rulings automatically granting the adoption, Smith's complaint argued, violated Veronica's right to a hearing to determine what was in her best interests.
That suit was dropped in October, the same month in which Brown said he would abandon all legal efforts to regain custody of the daughter he had been caring for.
Veronica has been living with the Capobiancos on James Island since then. The couple has said little publicly about their renewed life together.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
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