By The Associated Press
JACKSON — The U.S. Supreme Court could determine the impact of a federal law that gives jurisdiction over adoptions of American Indian children to tribal courts instead of state courts.
The Clarion-Ledger reported Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has joined 17 other state attorneys general in supporting the law, known as the Indian Child Welfare Act, as the Supreme Court reviews a case known as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.
Hood has an interest in the case because the law applies to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the state’s only federally recognized tribe.
The Supreme Court has taken up the act only once before, in the case Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield.
Decided in 1989, the case’s precedent has been applied to hundreds of American Indian custody cases.
“The act protects Indian children, their parents, and their tribes regardless of the Indian parent’s custodial status,” Hood said in a brief filed on behalf of Mississippi.
“The act also affords rights to the Indian child’s tribe, and a non-Indian mother cannot unilaterally abrogate those rights even when she has sole custody of the Indian child,” the brief stated.
The ruling continues to affect Mississippi Choctaws, said chief Phyllis Anderson.
In the Holyfield case, a woman tribe member gave birth to twins in Harrison County, then signed documents allowing for adoption of the children by a non-Indian couple.
The court found that despite giving birth about 200 miles from the Choctaw reservation in Neshoba County, the Indian Child Welfare Act still gave jurisdiction over adoptions to tribal courts.
“The tribal court ultimately approved the placement of the Choctaw children involved in Holyfield with the non-Indian couple who had attempted to adopt them in state court,” Anderson said.