Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Native American Law
In re Interest of Ricardo T.
The case involves the State of Nebraska's appeal against a juvenile court's order transferring jurisdiction of a child welfare case involving five Native American children to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court. The case centered on the interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA), both of which aim to protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.The Nebraska Supreme Court held that the juvenile court's order transferring the cases was conditional and not final, hence not appealable. The court found that the order was dependent on the tribal court's subsequent acceptance or declination of the transfer. If the tribal court declined the transfer, the cases would remain under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The court also noted that under NICWA, the transfer of a case from the juvenile court to a tribal court is subject to the tribal court's declination. Therefore, the court affirmed the Nebraska Court of Appeals' dismissal of the State's appeals due to the lack of a final, appealable order. View "In re Interest of Ricardo T." on Justia Law
In re Guardianship of Eliza W.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the county court establishing a guardianship for an Indian child, holding that the guardianship proceeding was governed by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA) and that the required showing under ICWA and NICWA was not made in this case.Grandmother sought to establish a guardianship for a Native American child over the objection of Mother. At the conclusion of the evidence at trial, the county court stated that it had found a sufficient basis for the appointment of Grandmother as the child's guardian. The court did not mention ICWA or NICWA in its written order appointing Grandmother as guardian for the child. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the cause with directions to vacate the guardianship, holding (1) ICWA and NICWA applied to the guardianship proceeding; and (2) the guardianship proceeding failed to comply with ICWA and NICWA. View "In re Guardianship of Eliza W." on Justia Law
In re Adoption of Micah H.
In vacating the adoption decree in this case, the Supreme Court addressed the proper interpretation of the relevant adoption statutes, as well as the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA), and whether Father abandoned his child, holding that the county court erred when it failed to comply with Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-107 to 43-109 when granting the adoption.On remand from the Supreme Court, the county court found that the petitioning grandparents (Grandparents) had made active efforts to prove remedial programs designed to unite Father with his Indian child under section 43-1505(4) and that Father had abandoned his child. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the adoption decree, holding (1) the county court did not err in finding by clear and convincing evidence that Grandparents made active efforts to reunite the child with Father, in finding that Father abandoned his child for at least six months prior to his incarceration, and in finding that adoption was in the child’s best interest; but (2) the county court erroneously failed to comply with sections 43-107 to 43-109 in granting the adoption. View "In re Adoption of Micah H." on Justia Law
Posted in: Native American Law
Kozal v. Nebraska Liquor Control Commission
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court vacating the order of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, which denied four beer retailers’ applications to renew their liquor licenses. The retailers were located in an unincorporated border town just across the state line from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where the sale and consumption of alcohol were prohibited. Without addressing the merits of the parties’ respective positions, the Supreme Court vacated the district court’s order, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the retailers’ petition for review because the retailers did not comply with the requirements for judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act. View "Kozal v. Nebraska Liquor Control Commission" on Justia Law
In re Adoption of Micah H.
The maternal grandparents and guardians of Child (together, Grandparents) filed a petition to adopt Child, alleging that Mother had consented to the adoption, that Father had abandoned Child, and that terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in Child’s best interests. Father, a non-Indian, answered, alleging that Child was an “Indian child” under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA). Neither party disputed that Child met the definition of “Indian child” under those acts. The county court applied both acts, which provide heightened protection to the rights of parents and tribes in proceedings involving adoption of Indian children. Following a hearing, the county court denied the petition because it was unable to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Father had abandoned Child. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) although the ICWA and NICWA apply to this adoption proceeding, not every provision of ICWA and NICWA applies to a non-Indian parent; (2) the county court erred in applying a higher standard of proof to the abandonment element of the NICWA; and (3) the county court erred in finding that Grandparents were not required to show “active efforts” had been made to unite Father and Child. View "In re Adoption of Micah H." on Justia Law
Posted in: Native American Law
In re Interest of Tavian B.
The juvenile court found Tavian B. to be a child who lacks proper parental care by reason of the fault or habits of his parents and to be in a situation dangerous to life or limb or injurious to his health or morals. The State subsequently filed a motion to terminate the parental rights of both parents. Father filed a motion to transfer jurisdiction to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Juvenile Court pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Before the juvenile court ruled on Father’s motion to transfer, the State withdrew its motion to terminate parental rights. Thereafter, the juvenile court concluded that good cause existed to overrule Father’s motion to transfer jurisdiction to the tribal court because the proceedings were in “an advanced stage.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State did not meet its burden of establishing good cause to deny transfer to tribal court, and therefore, the district court abused its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to transfer. View "In re Interest of Tavian B." on Justia Law
In re Interest of Jassenia H.
Mother was an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. After Jassenia, who was allegedly eligible for enrollment in the tribe, was removed from Mother’s care, the State filed a petition for adjudication pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a). At issue before the juvenile court was whether the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applied to the adjudication proceeding. The juvenile court determined that ICWA applied to the proceedings. Jassenia’s guardian ad litem appealed, asserting that Mother’s intent to relinquish custody of Jassenia rendered ICWA inapplicable. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the juvenile court’s order did not constitute a final, appealable order because the mere determination that ICWA applied, without further action, did not affect a substantial right. View "In re Interest of Jassenia H." on Justia Law
In re Interest of Shayla H.
Father had custody of his three minor children that were “Indian children” within the meaning of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA). The children were adjudicated as being within Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) because they lacked proper parental care. The juvenile court determined that it was in the children’s best interests for Father to have only physical custody and awarded legal custody of the children to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The court of appeals reversed, holding that the juvenile court erred by not addressing at the dispositional hearing whether the State made “active efforts,” as required by ICWA/NICWA, to return the children’s legal custody to Father. The State appealed, arguing that the “active efforts” standard did not apply to the disposition in this case, but rather, the “reasonable efforts” standard applicable in cases involving non-Indian children applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that at any point in an involuntary juvenile proceeding involving Indian children at which a party is required to demonstrate its efforts to reunify or prevent the breakup of the family, the “active efforts” standard of ICWA/NICWA applies. View "In re Interest of Shayla H." on Justia Law
In re Zylena R.
Mother's two Indian children, both minors, were placed in foster care by a separate juvenile court. After the State filed a motion to terminate parental rights, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska sought to transfer the proceedings to the Omaha Tribal Court pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act. The juvenile court denied the request, finding that the motions were filed at an "advanced stage" of the juvenile proceedings. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no basis for a determination that the motions to transfer these cases to tribal court were filed at an advanced stage of the proceedings to terminate parental rights, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in affirming the separate juvenile court's denial of the motions on this ground. Remanded with directions to sustain the motions to transfer the cases to the Omaha Tribal Court. View "In re Zylena R." on Justia Law