Our Practice

Child Welfare

An important part of our practice involves Indian child welfare. This includes litigation in many states on behalf of tribes to enforce the notice, placement and other protective measures of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).  We have also represented tribes in litigation to enforce the ICWA's full faith and credit provisions and intervention provisions, as well as the interplay between the ICWA and Public Law 280. Some examples of these are:   State v. Native Village of Tanana, 249 P.3d 734 (Alaska 2011) (holding Alaska tribes have the authority to initiate child custody proceedings as defined in ICWA, and the judgments in those proceedings are entitled to full faith and credit) and Native Vill. of Venetie v. State of Alaska, 944 F.2d 548 (9th Cir. 1991) (representing Amici tribes and organizations in a case holding that the Indian Child Welfare Act and Public Law 280 left intact the inherent authority of Alaska Native tribes to adjudicate child custody and related matters, and entitling those decrees to full faith and credit).   We also served as co-counsel for the Cherokee Nation before the U.S. Supreme Court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S.Ct. 2552 (2013), addressing the important Tribal interests served by ICWA in preventing the breakup of Indian families, and underscoring the constitutionality of ICWA. 

Much of the firm's ICWA work also involves counseling and litigation avoidance, consistent with the best interests of Native children. Our work on Indian child welfare matters has also included active participation before Congress when legislation is proposed to amend ICWA or other matters pertaining to the special interests of Indian children. Related to this, we have also advised our tribal clients, including tribal health care providers, with regard to compliance with the Indian Family Violence Prevention and Child Protection Act and we were active in the drafting of the Act's implementing regulations and in seeking important technical amendments to that law.