|NCFA interns arrived around 5:30am |
NCFA submitted amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs for the Supreme Court case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. The case involves adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who made an adoption plan with the birthmother of a little baby girl named Veronica. The biological father, Dusten Brown, is a member of the Cherokee Nation. Dusten Brown renounced his parental rights via a text message prior to Veronica’s birth, and based on state law he had no parental rights. However, after receiving notice of the pending adoption, he invoked the Indian Child Welfare Act to gain custody of baby Veronica. The Indian Child Welfare Act was created in 1978 in an effort to keep Native American children with their biological families.
The use of the Act in this specific case has come under scrutiny and made its way to the Supreme Court. NCFA staff member Megan Lindsey with the amazing support of John Jerabek, our Counsel of Record, and NCFA Legal Fellow, Jamel Rowe, wrote and submitted two amici briefs on NCFA’s behalf. The briefs asked the Justices to provide a clear-cut rule on how to implement the Act in a manner that protects adopted children, parents, and adoption stakeholders. Among other things, NCFA pointed out that ICWA is interpreted in such a way that it can trump children’s need for continued secure attachment by removing them from adoptive families where they have already formed emotional bonds and forcing them into completely unknown environments.
Megan Lindsey attended the hearings on NCFA’s behalf and invited the interns to take the day to hear the arguments. Not wanting to miss such an important case in child welfare, we woke up bright and early to get a spot in line for the action. Arriving outside the Supreme Court shortly after 5 am, Jamel Rowe, Aspen Smith, Nadja Todt and I waited patiently in line to receive a few of only around 50 tickets given to the public. After 2 hours of waiting patiently and making pleasant conversation with other attendees, security personnel handed out the passes and we just made the cut!
|Jamel Rowe, Aspen Smith, Jaclyn Newton, Nadja Todt |
Upon entering the Supreme Court, we went through a few more security lines, checked our personal belongings, and entered the courtroom. It was just amazing to sit in the courtroom and to think that we were witnessing a moment in US history that was closed to the outside world. The courtroom was packed with people from attorneys, reporters and supporters of both parties in the case. Almost immediately after the clock struck 10am, the justices entered and the proceedings began.Representing the Capobiancos was Lisa S. Blatt and representing Mr. Brown was Charles A. Rothfield. The Justices also heard arguments from attorney Paul D. Clement, a former Solicitor General, who spoke on behalf of the Guardian ad litem, representing baby Veronica’s interests. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler also presented on behalf of the U.S. Government. As each counsel presented their arguments, the Justices interjected with questions and concerns and even sparred with one another. By the end, the Justices seemed to have a variety of interests and concerns. Their ruling is expected mid-summer and we’ll have to continue to patiently await the outcome to know how they make up their minds.
For the NCFA interns, the experience was like no other and we all saw it as an incredible opportunity. Aspen Smith shared her thoughts on witnessing the arguments, “Hearing and seeing the case was a unique experience – one that probably won’t happen again. It was entertaining to see how the justices interact with one another and the attorneys arguing the case. I’m anxious to know their decision.” Jamel Rowe, who has been a legal fellow with NCFA since September, had particular interest in the case after assisting with the brief and following Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl closely ever since. Jamel said, “In law school I read landmark Supreme Court cases and always wondered what it must have felt like to watch history unfold. The Supreme Court has not heard an ICWA case for over 20 years so the opportunity to witness oral arguments for Adoptive Couple was a once in a lifetime experience that I could not pass up.”
|Jamel Rowe, Megan Lindsey, Nadja Todt, Aspen Smith, Jaclyn Newton |
Overall, hearing the arguments was an incredible experience for the NCFA interns and well worth the early morning wake-up and the wait for passes. NCFA provided great, hands-on learning experiences to us as interns. In this opportunity, we gained much knowledge of and respect for the highest court as a result. All of us at NCFA will be eagerly awaiting the outcome in this case and will continue to follow it closely.
For lots more detail on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl and to review the briefs submitted by NCFA and others here.