Dusten Brown reads a book to daughter Veronica Brown, 3, at their Nowata, Oklahoma home.

The Gloves Come Off: Civil Rights Suit Filed as Adoption of Veronica Finalized

Suzette Brewer
8/1/13

Before the adoption of Veronica Brown to Matt and Melanie Capobianco was finalized yesterday in a South Carolina courtroom, the Native American Rights Fund made good on its promised Civil Rights litigation, filing a complaint late Tuesday night in federal district court on behalf of the girl's right to due process in a “meaningful hearing” to determine her best interest. The courts in South Carolina failed to “take into account or require any inquiry” regarding Veronica's current circumstances before approving the transition plan provided by Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island.

RELATED: Baby Veronica Must Return to Adoptive Parents

Supreme Court Thwarts ICWA Intent in Baby Veronica Case

Anger Erupts Across Indian Country Over Baby Veronica Ruling

Native American Rights Fund: Stop the Forced Removal of Baby Veronica

Additionally, the suit (V.B. v. Daniel E. Martin, Family Court for the Ninth Judicial Circuit) declares that Veronica is a tribal member and remains an “Indian Child” under the Indian Child Welfare Act, and therefore she “possesses a federally protected right” to a best interest hearing under federal law.

Supported by dozens of tribes, civil rights and child welfare groups, adoption advocacy organizations, legal authorities and Native American groups, the complaint seeks federal jurisdiction over the case, as well as an injunction prohibiting South Carolina courts from further proceedings pending a full and “meaningful” best interest hearing.

Angel Smith, an Oklahoma attorney appointed by the Cherokee Nation to represent Veronica as a tribal member, filed the motion on the girl's behalf.

The Cherokee Nation reacted swiftly to the finalization of the adoption and transition plan in South Carolina.

“Today, a Family Court in South Carolina finalized the adoption of an almost 4-year-old Cherokee child who has been living with her unquestionably fit, loving, biological father and large extended family, for one year and seven months, half a continent away in Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation,” said Chrissi Nimmo, assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “This decision was made without a hearing to determine what is in Veronica’s current best interests and comes almost two years after the same Family Court found that Dusten Brown was a fit, loving parent and it would be in Veronica’s best interests to be placed with her father. Every parent in America should be terrified.

Dusten Brown is an honorable man and a good father. Cherokee Nation will continue to support Dusten, Veronica and the entire Brown family in their attempt to keep their family whole.”

Dusten Brown, who is currently in training with the National Guard, also issued the following statement:

“Our family is shocked and deeply saddened that the South Carolina Supreme Court has refused to allow Veronica's best interest to be considered. Even worse, that Court issued an order they acknowledge will cause my daughter to suffer harm. The Court gave its blessing to the transition plan offered by the Capobiancos that says upon transfer to them, Veronica will be 'fearful, scared, anxious, confused,'” said Brown.

“They say she will likely become quiet and withdrawn and may cry herself to sleep. That the transfer will cause 'grief' and 'loss' and she will feel 'rejected' by me and her family. They say it will leave her with many 'unanswered questions.' I will not voluntarily let my child go through that, no parent would. I am her father and it is my job to protect her. My family and I continue to pray that the justice system bring justice to Veronica.”

RELATED: Inseparable Sisters: Adoption Order Exacts Toll on Baby Veronica's Family

But legal experts acknowledged that the fight over custody of Veronica is not only not over, but has now moved into a whole new level of litigation. In spite of South Carolina's ruling yesterday, enforcement in Oklahoma courts will now be the focus of the case.

“Everything will now move to Washington County, Oklahoma, where Veronica now resides,” said a legal scholar who asked for anonymity because of the ongoing litigation. “But it will require a bit of time for any order to be domesticated in that state. You may have an order from South Carolina, but guess what? Veronica's not in South Carolina. She's been domiciled in Oklahoma for 19 months and there's no way a court in Oklahoma is going to approve enforcement of this order without a normal, legal checklist of things that would be required for any other child up that's been put up for adoption, not to mention a child who is a tribal member and is living with a biological parent.”

For example, the adoption was finalized without a current homestudy or psychological evaluation of any of the parties involved, which legal and child welfare experts say are standard operating procedures.

“It's called giving 'full faith and credit' to another state's order,” said the expert. “[The legal team] is going to go into court to argue that full faith and credit should not be given to the South Carolina order because the courts there did not follow the law. And Oklahoma, quite frankly, does not have to give full faith and credit if Veronica's constitutional right to due process has been denied.”

Additionally, observers say that because jurisdiction has been shifted to Oklahoma, the gloves have now come off in a state that was originally founded as “Indian Territory.” With nearly 40 tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma has the second largest American Indian population in the United States. And they have watched the events in Adoptive Couple unfold in South Carolina with growing alarm and disgust.

“How is it that Paul Clement, who wasn't even a party in this case, walks into the United States Supreme Court and insults every Indian tribe in the country by making this case about blood quantum and fiercely advocating for a 'best interest' hearing, only to have it shot down in South Carolina because the judges there think it's too hard?” asks one Tulsa lawyer who works exclusively in ICWA cases. “It simply boggles the mind that any court would callously disregard the most important party in this case: Veronica herself. The fight is definitely not over.”

Lori Alvino McGill, the attorney for birth mother Christy Maldonado, today dismissed the federal suit to stop the finalization of the adoption as a “publicity stunt,” as tribes across the country continue to unify in support of Veronica and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

RELATED: Baby Veronica's Mother Finally Speaks Out About Court Case

Baby Veronica's Birth Mother Files Suit, Claims ICWA Unconstitutional

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Capobiancos filed their response to Dusten Brown's request to the U.S. Supreme Court that the South Carolina courts postpone finalization of the adoption until a best interest determination hearing could be held. Chief Justice John Roberts, an adoptive parent himself who sided with the majority against Brown, oversees emergency petitions for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes South Carolina.

Sources in Washington have pointed out that Alvino McGill's role in Adoptive Couple is more than that of a spokesperson for Christy Maldonado. As it turns out, Chief Justice Roberts and former solicitor general Ted Olson, both of whom sided with the Capobiancos, attended Ms. Alvino McGill's 2006 wedding to Matthew McGill who, coincidentally, was a clerk for John Roberts in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Therefore, given the cozy nature and small world influence in the Capitol's legal circles, observers say it was no surprise when Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl was granted petition of certiorari in January.

“Dusten Brown never had a chance,” said the source. “His biggest sin was that he got on the wrong side of the billion dollar U.S. adoption industry and he was winning. [The Supreme Court] knew this when they took cert on this case, otherwise, why would they bother with a custody dispute that should have been nipped in the bud four years ago? And the sad part is that he's rehabilitated himself in every way in this case. He's gone to every length to keep his child, he's done everything asked of him. But it is a system that was stacked against him from the beginning. This is Worcester v. Georgia all over again.”

After the South Carolina court's ruling finalizing the adoption of his daughter, Dusten Brown made a direct plea to the Capobiancos.

“To Matt and Melanie Capobianco I want to say this: Please, for Veronica's sake, just stop. Stop, and ask yourself if you really believe this is best for her.”

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Evil people this South Carolina couple. Cursed you are & cursed you will stay! We First Nations people have dealt with your kind for 100's of years. You started this curse the moment you refused to listen to reason & have continued through your wealth & family's connections to the US Supreme Court through Justice Roberts. This was most certainly a conflict of interest case. Justice Roberts should have stepped aside & excused himself from this case. The way things look is that Justice Roberts is returning a favor to this couples lawyer with whom he attended her wedding in the past. Bad move Justice Roberts................Bad move child stealers! Your sins are finding you folks out day by day!

sparrowtooth's picture
sparrowtooth
Submitted by sparrowtooth on
Someone....named Christine M. used purposely incorrect data on Dusten B. Why? To be tricky and avoid ICWA procedures....shame on her and her attorney Lori Alvino McGill. Shameless and cut-throat-causing infinite heartbreak. Roberts- do the right thing. He won't, or he would have recused himself during SCOTUS case. He attended "Lori's" wedding her cripes sake. Indian rights...they step all over them as we don't ever "make the cut". Appaling.

Deborah A Wolf
Deborah A Wolf
Submitted by Deborah A Wolf on
If the Cherokee Nation contests the adoption, and this child is taken away and given to these soulless entities anyway, it will be a declaration by the US government that all treaties are null and void, and that sovereignty was simply a cookie given to the First Nations as a distraction.

metis22's picture
metis22
Submitted by metis22 on
This is only a question: can the Cherokee Nation and/or all the 1st Peoples Nations together file an emergency appeal to the International Court of Justice, the judiciary arm of the United Nations? It is about time the rest of the world comes to the see what is happening in this country and someone helps us. SCOTUS may not give a darn what they say but at least the rest of the world will see what is happening.

Deborah A Wolf
Deborah A Wolf
Submitted by Deborah A Wolf on
This is a travesty and lacks even the thin veneer of respectability. Pretty sad when Al Jazeera starts pitying US citizens. As a veteran, as a mother, as a righteous citizen of the United States of America, my blood is boiling over this. And why all the vitriol directed at this father? How many fathers do you know who have fought so long, so hard, and so honorably for their children? Dusten Brown is an amazing father. Laws have been broken, flouted, and mocked in the capobianco's obsessive drive to own this child, this accessory, this living breathing symbol of their supremacy. Roberts feels no more need to recuse himself than the SC Supreme Court feels to follow its own directives. The US Government has proven once again that any treaty with the US isn't even good latrine reading material. While sycophants and hangers-on howl at the foot of the capobianco tree, hoping that wealth and favor will rain down upon their heads, secure in the thought that the children of privilege cannot be stolen in the night, much less by daylight and with the blessing of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. My Country, 'tis of thee, sweet stench of treachery, for thee I grieve.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Metis22, you ask a valid question & I wonder if tribal legal teams have thought of going after things via this avenue as well with the International Court of Justice. How about it lawyers & law firms of our First Nations Peoples near & far? Hesutu, thank your for opening our eyes even further with your commentary. Many folks I would wager didn't know of what you share with us here today. Even today we have turn coats among our many peoples. Just like the scouts for the Invaders military who betrayed our ancestors from long ago. What a black heart to be a traitor to our people some have become. Wicked these ones are as well! The Great Spirit has a traitors just rewards waiting sooner than they realize my friends. Such people need to be shunned & banished from among ALL our people far & wide. Cursed they have become & cursed they shall remain as long as they continue to sell our brothers & sisters out across Turtle Island.

sg's picture
sg
Submitted by sg on
This poor baby girl, I am so happy that things will be resolved and these wonderful people (Capobiancos) will get to raise this baby girl to be a wonderful person like they are. It sickens me to see this hypocritical man and corrupt tribal court (not to mention they tore this babe from her loving mom and dad WITHOUT transition after two years from birth, hense their concern for peaceful transition in the article.) treat this little one like an object to be owned. I pray that she transitions well back to her REAL family, as it seems she will with all of the love the Capobiancos have for her, they have her true best interests at heart, god bless them.

Sue Brittle
Sue Brittle
Submitted by Sue Brittle on
All the accusations about father can be found to be false by only reading the South Carolina court documents. The supporters are constantly stating he didn't pay for support of his older daughter, yet it was automatically deducted from his military pay. Any number of accusations can be addressed with truths by only referring to the S.C. docs. Please read and use those documents to respond to the haters.

Hui Mei's picture
Hui Mei
Submitted by Hui Mei on
SG you sound a little off to me, but maybe one day you will be able to sell a child of your own and try to justify what you do. Veronica has a right to be raised with her loving biological father, not with someone who has purchased her like she is property. That is what the Capobianco's really care about-having what they consider their property returned to them. They are arrogant and do not won't to take no for an answer. If they loved this child, they would not put her through this. They are selfish. And the courts of SC are rife with corruption. If the money is good, or the promise of votes or "donations" .....well there you go. Someone is paying a pretty penny to push this through without due process. So, SG the only ones I see treating Veronica as property, as something to be owned instead of a child that belongs with someone who helped create her and wants her, are the Capobiancos, as FAKE parents. and you are just as bad as they are.

sg's picture
sg
Submitted by sg on
Hui Mei, your response is a little off to me. From M&M's filing to SCOTUS - 1. The court also held that “Birth Father’s rights, if any, are determined by the law of the state of South Carolina. . . . While th[e] [2012 decision of the South Carolina Supreme] Court was in error concerning the applicability of ICWA, we have consistently held that under state law, the Birth Father’s parental rights (because of his irrefutable lack of support, interest and involvement in the life of Baby Girl) would be terminated.” Id. (noting that ALL FIVE state supreme court justices were unanimous on this point of state law). “Therefore, under state law, the Birth Father is precluded from challenging the adoption. Moreover, in light of the urgent need for this matter to be concluded, we determine, upon review of the record, that the adoption of Baby Girl by the Adoptive Couple is in the best interests of Baby Girl.” Id. at 1-2 .- Simply, this man has no claim to this child. The ICWA was sadly misinterpreted in this case at the expense of the child in question. He did not want her, she went to a loving home, her 2% Cherokee heritage should have nothing to do with her placement in a loving home with a couple who raised her for two whole years, for which her birth mother chose because the father wanted no part. End of story.

sweetgrass777's picture
sweetgrass777
Submitted by sweetgrass777 on
@SG: Well Said. I agree with you. What makes me sick about people in Indian County is that they want to make things relevant when it is convenient for them. I don't know what baby Veronica's "Ethnic" Classification was when she was adopted??? Was she Cherokee then? Was she being taught the traditional ways of her "Ancestors". This was her father's responsibility to ensure that his offspring had access to the culture. This baby will surely be confused going back and forth between the White and Indian world. She looks like she may have some African ancestry as well. The Cherokee Nation is riddled with hipocrisy. Nowadays I don't know what a Cherokee is. Everybody and their mother is Cherokee. They talk about these "rolls" which so many whites faked their blood quantum and lied about their identity to get on when these land Allotments where being issued. That is why they are almost washed out with people who are claiming the heritage but used it only when it is to their advantage. Do the research you can find the truth about this. This whole thing honestly make me sick that they would use this baby as a pawn and poster child for "Indian rights". @hesutu Obama has nothing to do with this. Poor comparison. I think SC made the right decision. Stop playing with Native Heritage! Either you are Native or you are not. Not when it benefits you. I don't care what mixture you are.

hesutu's picture
hesutu
Submitted by hesutu on
Veronica Brown is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Her father Dusten Brown is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Neither of them are half-citizens, quarter-citizens, or any other form of fractional citizen. They are full and complete citizens in totality, just as Obama is a full and complete citizen of the United States, and not a half citizen, quarter citizen, or any other form of fractional citizen. These are absolute incontrovertible facts. That there are those who continue to pose and posture in a state of denial and spread falsehoods about these incontrovertible facts tells you about their character. Here are a few other things which have already been covered and established, but which the various advocates of kidnapping of our children don't want people to know about. "Mother never informed Father that she intended to place the baby up for adoption." Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 731 S.E.2d 550, 553 (S.C. 2012). "Initially the birth mother did not wish to identify the father, said she wanted to keep things low-key as possible for the (Appellants), because he's registered in the Cherokee tribe. It was determined that naming him would be detrimental to the adoption." Id. at 554. "Mother signed the necessary documentation, which reported Baby Girl's ethnicity as "Hispanic" instead of "Native American." After Baby Girl was discharged from the hospital, Appellants remained in Oklahoma with Baby Girl for approximately eight days until they received ICPC approval, at which point they took Baby Girl to South Carolina. According to the testimony of Tiffany Dunaway, a Child Welfare Specialist with the Cherokee Nation, had the Cherokee Nation known about Baby Girl's Native American heritage, Appellants would not have been able to remove Baby Girl from Oklahoma." Id. at 554-55. "Appellants filed the adoption action in South Carolina on September 18, 2009, three days after Baby Girl's birth, but did not serve or otherwise notify Father of the adoption action until January 6, 2010, approximately four months after Baby Girl was born and days before Father was scheduled to deploy to Iraq." Id. at 555.

sweetgrass777's picture
sweetgrass777
Submitted by sweetgrass777 on
@hesutu Okay.....maybe she had a reason to do what she did. Once again this is what you get when you dilute the culture.. Headaches. He could have fathered a child with a Native or mixed Native(no matter what the mixture) that had ties to the culture. Don't get me wrong I have no problems with folks marrying out but such a large nation that is already has a lot of political issues under their belt why create more? If he where true to "his culture" he would have though more carefully about making sure it was preserved. That is and has always been the problem with the Cherokee people. Trying to make everyone a Cherokee yet excluding others. Don't let me get started on the freedmen issue. I think this is a great publicity stunt for the Cherokee Nation. They Cherokee Nation "destroyed the Indian family" when they began letting their women get in bed with white Scotts/Irish men. Sellouts. BIG MISTAKE. Now they are paying for it. As they say....the sins of the fathers shall be upon the sons. Whatever the outcome I hope baby Veronica winds up in a good home.

cstudent3412's picture
cstudent3412
Submitted by cstudent3412 on
Who are these "legal experts?" Unlike the full faith and credit agreements between states and tribal governments, the full faith and credit process between states is mandated under the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court and other federal courts have been clear on this issue: states must, as a general matter, always give full faith and credit to the judgments of another state. While states have some latitude in deciding whether to give full faith and credit to the laws of another state, the same is not true for judgments as a general matter. Geesh, where did these attorneys go to school? Oklahoma as a legal matter has to give full faith and credit to the South Carolina judgment (unless you can think of a constitutional argument for an OK court to deny it). Unlike tribes, Oklahoma cannot rely on a public policy/state law argument to even consider denying full faith and credit to another state's judgment!!

cstudent3412's picture
cstudent3412
Submitted by cstudent3412 on
@Deborah A Wolf: the Cherokee Nation is the last tribe that should be making noise about treaty rights/obligations (although what you wrote about the implications of a legal adoption over Cherokee Nation objections is untrue). What else can you say about a tribe that is insistent on kicking black Cherokee Freedmen out of the tribe despite treaty obligations to the contrary? By the way, now that the Obama Administration has joined the lawsuit on this issue on the side of the Freedmen, the Cherokee Nation is sure to lose in federal court as sovereign immunity is no longer a bar to the lawsuit at all.

rabbit's picture
rabbit
Submitted by rabbit on
Look, I know we're emotional, but we shouldn't call the pre-adoptive couple evil--that isn't fair. The situation wasn't their fault *in the beginning*...they were taken advantage of by the birth mother and then victimized by the shoddy adoption agency who should have placed an adoptable child with this childless couple. Of course they're in the wrong for how they have taken this toward selfish heights that are putting their own interests above Veronica's, but we should understand the emotional aspect for them. Even though they should never have been allowed to have Veronica in their home, the mistake was made and they had her for well over a year, which is mega-bonding time. Any of us would be torn up to let a baby we have raised that long go, especially if people told us that she was ours. So that's really sad, and for that reason I find it easier to understand why they would be blinded by emotions to allow it to be taken as far as it has. Their real problem is refusing to consider anything that does not support what they want and allowing themselves to only see their own loss--and no one else's loss. It's their refusal to consider how another parent would feel and put themselves in his shoes. They are choosing to believe what fits their picture of what they want, and all the profiteering folks in this situation have taken advantage of their emotional grief. We need to recognize this as a story that began with injustice to everyone (except the birth mother and anyone else who manipulated facts or had a profit to make or a mistake to cover up). Wrongs have been committed since, but it's important to try to understand what is behind the couple's actions. Those actions are not justifiable, but they are understandable.

rabbit's picture
rabbit
Submitted by rabbit on
@sweetgrass777 I know what you mean about everybody claiming to be Cherokee and there are certainly some messed up aspects of this. But it sounds like you don't know anyone in Oklahoma or elsewhere who may have a smaller blood quantum but has grown up in connection with that community. There are low blood quantum "white" kids growing up on the rez or in a community with their extended Indian families who have just as much right to self-identify as some assimilated folks I know who might have a higher blood quantum but could care less about their heritage or community. The bottom line is that this case was made into a story about blood quantum when it's about a botched adoption process. Where a birth mother profits off of giving away a child that she had no desire to raise--even though she deceived the father into thinking that she did--which was the only reason, coupled with being on his way into Iraq, that he did what she asked him to do. This is what has bothered me the most about the flying rhetoric coming from "concerned" people who are on the pre-adoptive couple's side. They have believed the narrative that has been hammered into the press: Veronica's daddy didn't care about her! He abandoned her! He was a deadbeat! Which is exactly the opposite. So we have people like @sg feeling self-righteous about their judgment on Dusten Brown--they have not looked at the full story of the origin of this case, so they feel like anyone who thinks otherwise is just ridiculous. What continues to amaze me is how the birth mother and her lawyer and the adoption agency--who did wrong to both the father (who, if he had just been told in the beginning about the intent to sell I mean give the baby up, would have never agreed to give up his custody) and the pre-adoptive couple (who just wanted an adoptable child and never expected a whirlwind of complications)-- seem to be getting off scot-free by hiding beneath the marketed narratives. One thought, though, that strikes me, is that if the birth mother had told her ex-fiance about her real intentions to get paid to give the baby away, and he had refused to give up his rights, she might have aborted Veronica. So maybe that's one silver lining to this...that Veronica is alive.
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