July 10, 2013
On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. The case involved the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, and considers the following: 1) whether a biological father who initially renounced custodial rights over his daughter can invoke the ICWA to block her adoption by a non-Indian couple; and 2) whether the ICWA’s definition of “parent” includes an unwed biological father who has not followed state rules for obtaining legal status as a parent.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Alito, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that, if the biological father is assumed to be a parent for ICWA purposes, the Act does not bar termination of the father’s parental rights. Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Breyer joined the majority opinion. Justice Thomas and Justice Breyer filed concurring opinions. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Sotomayor also filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan, and by Justice Scalia in part.
To discuss the case we have Tom Gede, a commissioner on the Indian Law and Order Commission and Of Counsel with Bingham McCutchen LLP.