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
August 01, 2013

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.”



hesutu's picture
Submitted by hesutu on

In addition to McGill, the Capobianco's attorney Mark Fiddler (who has previously posted in the comments of this site, so he follows these articles) has played a key role and has unusual connections that have not been mentioned in these articles. In Spring 2012, he co-founded the "Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children and Families" (CPIC), a group lobbying to castrate the ICWA, while claiming the ICWA violates equal protection and "destroys families and indian children". (Note, not "destroy indian families", but "destroy families and indian children" - meaning white families with their new acquisition of one of our children.)

On their lobbying site CPIC has now hidden the fact that Mark is a co-founder and thus that there are strong legal (and possibly financial) connections between this group and this case, which it has become clear is a test case. Financial and staff connections between this lobbying group and this case should be explored. Mark is a Chippewa who built his career on representing in favor of the ICWA through the ICWLC in Minnesota, which he was a founding director of, and which is largely financed by various tribes. He no longer seems to have any affiliation with the ICWLC now that he has changed sides. I am very curious what the current directors of the ICWLC think about this case and wonder why they have not provided any advisory role or assistance to protect Veronica and the Browns and defend the ICWA, as well as how they feel about their former director now working against their principles. Why did he switch sides? Mark once stated to the media when interviewed on the Veronica case that one case he advocated for in the past which resulted in a fight the indian girl really wanted to be with the adopted white family, and later had problems in life. Therefore the ICWA is bad, in his view. What of all the other ICWA cases though? They are not mentioned. I am not really interested in his opinions or motivation at this point, but I am interested in ICWLC's current opinion on this, since they are currently taking money from tribes to represent the ICWA, and I am interested in knowing all the ways that CPIC has supported this case financially, legally, and otherwise. We deserve to know these answers.

As to why Dr. Phil would have Johnston Moore, another founder of the anti-indan-family lobbying group CPIC on his show, along with another CPIC member Troy Dunn, both representing their lobbying group CPIIC's position, without disclosing to the audience anything whatsoever about why these two were on the show or what interests the represented, we can only speculate.

My own father was kidnapped by whites in the 1920s and it caused him lifelong pain and trouble. Of course the whites were well intentioned, and yes they were financially better off than his real parents. But so what? His mother searched for him until the day she died, decades afterwards. His brothers and sisters, then nephews and nieces searched for him for 80 years after he was taken. Most of his siblings were put into foster care homes once authorities became aware that there was a wild indian family that had gone off the reservation. This caused his siblings pain and suffering as well. It continued along. My aunts who pretended to be white or italian, and who married whites, were left alone and allowed to keep their children. One of my aunts who did not hide her indian identity though had all five of her children taken from her by the state and adopted out to white families, desperate for an indian child whose soul to crush as they made them into white people.

Kidnapping of indian children continues to this day as we see in this case. These days children are nearly always sold in one form or another, whether it is through $10,000 "gifts" to the person delivering the child for taking, or whether through exorbitant fees that keep adoption attorneys in this genocidal industry wealthy. But that wealth comes from evil activity which destroys our culture and families. "Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." is also defined as an act of genocide by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Those of indigenous heritage who engage in this destruction should be shunned and banished.

Previous coverage on ICTMN about the CPIC has been sparse, but there is this article here: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/opinion/dr.-phil-and-the-real-...

Also worth reading is this: http://lastrealindians.com/dr-phil-and-his-bias-toward-icw/

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
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
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
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
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
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
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.

hesutu's picture
Submitted by hesutu on

Readers may wish to be aware that sg's quotes are not taken from a US Supreme Court finding as one might think is represented in that post, but are from the July 24, 2013 ruling made less than two weeks ago by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which can be found at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/sc-supreme-court/1640003.html

Regarding the SCOTUS ruling, we should continue to be aware that, contrary to their claims, the girl is not "1.2%" Cherokee citizen anymore than Obama is "50% American citizen. She is in totality and entirely a full citizen of the Cherokee Nation because her father is a full citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and because her nation's laws consider her to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, just as the laws of the US consider Obama to be a full citizen of the nation state known as the United States.

The thinking behind racial blood arguments dealing with degree of purity of white race come from a legacy of racism and eugenics and have no place in modern society. Justice Roberts and a few others on the bench are fascinating with this type of thinking, but it is an archaic relic of a racist past. It would be nice if these sorts of racist claims went away after the end of WWII and the things that went on then, but there are still hangers-on to this type of thinking, causing damage.