Dusten Brown and his daughter Veronica pet geese in their yard in Nowata, Oklahoma. (Suzette Brewer)

Supreme Court Rules 5-4 In Favor of Capobiancos in Baby Veronica Case

June 25, 2013

Today the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of granting custody of 3-year-old Veronica to the non-Indian couple Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina. Now the case will head back into South Carolina family courts, which will determine Veronica's placement. She has been living with her biological father, Dusten Brown, in Nowata, Oklahoma, since December 2011.

The case, formally known as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, is one of the most important Indian legal battles of the last generation, and the implications it may have on the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act  are potentially devastating.

“It would undo [over] 35 years of work on the Indian Child Welfare Act,” Chrissi Nimmo, the counsel of record for the Cherokee Nation, told Indian Country Today Media Network in April 2013. “Any adverse decision would impact every tribe in the country. There’s no doubt.”

Prior to Veronica’s birth, Christina Maldonado, the non-Indian biological mother, had agreed to pre-adoptive placement with the Capobiancos without consulting Brown. The Capobiancos were never legally eligible to adopt Veronica, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and they paid Maldonado $10,000 and other expenses for Veronica.

In two courts, Brown successfully sued to regain custody of Veronica under the Indian Child Welfare Act. On December 28, 2011, the South Carolina Appellate Court ruled the Indian Child Welfare Act trumped South Carolina state law, stating that the Brown family has a “deeply embedded relationship” with their Cherokee heritage. On July 26, 2012, a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling upheld the appellate court’s decision to give Brown full parental rights to Veronica. 

Read The Fight for Baby Veronica Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 for in-depth coverage. More reports will come today including reactions from Indian country.



Amelia's picture
Submitted by Amelia on

This makes me sick. Child trafficking with the help of the US Supreme Court.

Erin's picture
Submitted by Erin on

I'm stunned and angry with the court. Obviously they were deeply divided in the case. I'd like to read the dissenting opinions... this is just ridiculous.

WinterElk's picture
Submitted by WinterElk on

The potential here is that she has been living with her "father" for two years. All her memories are with that situation. To take her and give her to strangers may well cause a serious, emotion injury.

maisie 's picture
Submitted by maisie on

This poor child will have to be ripped from the people she lives with since 2011 and given to strangers. If her father has custody why is this still going to court. Horrendous.

DJ's picture
Submitted by DJ on

When did the father request a blood card. Veronica can only apply for a blood card after the father has obtained one and she has to then apply. Therefore the comment on Veronica a member of the Cherokee Nation may not be forthright. Why would Veronica's father who legally wavied all his rights during mother's pregnancy wait for TWO years to all of a sudden show up and decide he wants to be a dad....Really. This child is a human being and will always have her heritage of Cherokee and be able to engage in her heritage as an adopted child raised in a loving family. She can request her blood card if she truly is? Her dad's blood line is 3/128th, and he has to prove that one of his parents has a direct Cherokee blood line that goes all the way to the DAWES roles and with his blood showing 3/128th that is very questionable and now there is Veronica who is now a split off of that supposed 3/128th. South Carolina only ruled in father's case in begining was due to the ICWA, that has been overruled by the US Supreme Court, therefore South Carolina will now most likely reinstate the adopted parents rights per the ruling of the US Supreme Court. We need to stop tossing this innocent little girls life around as if she were a commodity. The adoptive parents could be sympathic and once she is back in their home, give permission for Veronica once or maybe couple times a year to visit her heritage and engage in their rituals to help her learn her heritage.

Malby's picture
Submitted by Malby on

You left out the part about the father abandoning his parental rights. And if the Capobiancos never had a legal right to adopt (?), why did the Supreme Court remand the case to South Carolina?

Linda Torres's picture
Linda Torres
Submitted by Linda Torres on

The ICWA give Tribal Nations absolute decision making rights over placement of Native American Children. There should be cooperation between the courts and recognition of Native nations as sovereign nations. You wouldn't go into another country and circumvent their laws. It's important to recognize this right for Tribal Nations.