Articles Posted in Native American Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting the Oglala Sioux Tribe's motion to transfer jurisdiction of an abuse and neglect proceeding to tribal court, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the Tribe's motion to transfer without hearing the testimony of the child's physician. After the child in this case was born, the State alleged that the child was abused or neglected. At the outset of what was to have been the final disposition hearing, the Tribe orally moved to transfer the abuse and neglect case to tribal court. The circuit court ultimately granted the Tribe's motion to transfer. The child's counsel appealed, challenging the circuit court's order transferring jurisdiction to tribal court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the Tribe's motion to transfer without hearing the testimony of the child's physician, who was present in the courtroom. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the Tribe's motion for transfer anew. View "In re Interest of E.T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the dispositional order terminating Father’s parental rights of his four-year-old son (Child) in this Indian Child Welfare Act case, holding that there was no trial court error in terminating Father’s parental rights. In terminating Father’s parental rights, the trial court found that Father failed to act as a caregiver to Child and that his and Mother’s continued custody of Child would likely resolution in serious emotional or physical damage to them. In addition, the court concluded that active efforts were made to prevent the breakup of the family but were unsuccessful and that termination of all parental rights was the least restrictive alternative in the children’s best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Father's argument that the South Dakota Department of Social Services failed to make active efforts to prevent the breakup of his Indian family was without merit; and (2) therefore, the trial court properly terminated Father’s parental rights. View "In re Interest of M.D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this action for summary judgment, holding that an exculpatory clause in a contract between the parties unambiguously insulated Defendants for liability in tort and contract for their good-faith acts and failures to act under the authority granted to them by the contract and contract documents. At issue was the enforceability of exculpatory clauses insulating a third party from claims of negligent design and negligent administration and interpretation of a contract. The Supreme Court held that Defendants, who were hired by the Oglala Sioux Tribe to design a road reconstruction project, were entitled to summary judgment where (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that the clause at issue contravened public policy; (2) Defendants established a prima facie case of good faith, and there was no material issue of fact in dispute on the issue of Defendants’ good-faith acts and failures to act in the interpretation and application of the contract documents; and (3) no genuine material issue existed for trial that Defendants’ design and drafting fell below a professional standard of care. View "Domson, Inc. v. Kadrmas Lee & Jackson, Inc." on Justia Law

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After discovering methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the home of Mother, Mother’s three children were removed from the home. The State initiated abuse and neglect proceedings against Mother, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Tribe). More than one year later, the Tribe and Mother submitted motions to transfer the proceedings to the Tribe’s jurisdiction. The circuit court denied the motions. Following a final dispositional hearing, the court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mother was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether good cause existed to deny the motions to transfer jurisdiction to the Tribe, and therefore, the circuit court abused its discretion by denying the motions. View "In re Interest of A.O." on Justia Law

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Before he died, the Decedent transferred two quarter sections of Indian trust land located in Tripp County, South Dakota, to his son. The Decedent’s estate (the Estate) filed this action arguing that the Decedent lacked the requisite mental capacity or was unduly influenced by his son when he transferred the land. Specifically, the Estate requested that the court compel the Decedent’s son to make application to the Secretary of the Interior for the transfer of the Indian trust property to the Estate. The circuit court denied the Estate’s request and dismissed the action, determining that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the parcels held in trust by the United States. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case. View "Ducheneaux v. Ducheneaux" on Justia Law

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In 1967, Raymond and Margaret Becker's eight child inherited an undivided one-eighth interest in patented fee land located within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. None of the Beckers were Indians. In 2006, one of the Becker children sold her interest to Patrick and Carletta Aberle. Patrick was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Carletta was a non-Indian. Due to certain conveyances, Patrick and Carletta each owned an undivided one-sixteenth interest in the property. The Becker children later commenced this action seeking a sale of the entire property. The Aberles counterclaimed for partition. Patrick also contended that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute because he was a member of the Tribe, which had jurisdiction. The circuit court ordered a sale of the entire property, concluding that state jurisdiction did not infringe upon tribal sovereignty. In considering the state-tribal jurisdiction issue, the Supreme Court noted that a determination of the disputed land's alienability was necessary. The Court then remanded the matter to the circuit court to reconsider the jurisdiction question after further development of a factual record and consideration of land alienation cases. View "McGuire v. Aberle" on Justia Law

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The district court granted temporary custody of three Native American children to the department of social services. Citing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (Tribe) contested the custody order by challenging the oldest child's temporary placement and questioning the lack of adherence to relative placement preferences under the ICWA. The court advised that ICWA placement preferences were not yet applicable. The Tribe filed an application for a writ of mandamus or prohibition from the Supreme Court to compel a new temporary custody hearing. The Supreme Court dismissed the Tribe's application for an extraordinary writ, holding that the trial court was not obligated to follow ICWA at temporary or emergency custody proceedings under state law, and therefore, the trial court appropriately rejected the Tribe's invocation of ICWA and requests for a new temporary custody hearing conducted in full accord with ICWA. View "Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe v. Judicial Court (Davis)" on Justia Law

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M.A.S. (Father) appealed the termination of his parental rights to P.S.E. At the time P.S.E. was removed from Mother’s care, Father lived in California and did not know he had a child in South Dakota. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applied to these proceedings because P.S.E. was an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe. Father argued on appeal that the Department of Social Services (DSS) did not make active efforts to reunite the Indian family and that any efforts made were successful. Because the evidence presented shows that DSS provided active and reasonable, though abbreviated, efforts to place P.S.E. with Father, and those efforts were unsuccessful, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order terminating Father's parental rights. View "In the interest of P.S.E." on Justia Law

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After a hearing, the circuit court terminated Mother's parental rights to Child. Mother was Native American and eligible to be enrolled in the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, but because she was not actually enrolled, an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) specialist for the Tribe concluded that Child was not eligible for enrollment. Since Child was not enrolled or eligible for enrollment, the court found ICWA inapplicable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) in finding ICWA inapplicable, as Mother failed to show that Child was an Indian child within the meaning of ICWA; and (2) in finding that termination of Mother's parental rights was the least restrictive alternative available. View "In re L.S." on Justia Law

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Maternal grandparents petitioned for permanent guardianship of a minor Indian child in the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal court. After receiving the guardianship, they sought to have it recognized in a South Dakota circuit court, which had been exercising jurisdiction over the child and his deceased mother since 2007. The circuit court concluded that the tribal court did not have jurisdiction and, consequently, denied the grandparents' motion to recognize the tribal court order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the minor child did not reside on the Mille Lacs Reservation for purposes of exclusive jurisdiction under the Indian Child Welfare Act; and (2) because the tribal court did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the grandparents' guardianship petition, the circuit court did not err in denying the grandparents' petition to recognize the tribal court order. View "Merrill v. Altman" on Justia Law