In re N.N.E., No. 07-0123.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtStreit
Citation752 N.W.2d 1
PartiesIn the Interest of N.N.E., Minor Child, Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek Rancheria, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 07-0123.
Decision Date13 June 2008
752 N.W.2d 1
In the Interest of N.N.E., Minor Child,
Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek Rancheria, Appellant.
No. 07-0123.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
June 13, 2008.
Rehearing Denied July 16, 2008.

[752 N.W.2d 4]

Rosalynd J. Koob of Heidman, Redmond, Fredregill, Patterson, Plaza, Dykstra & Prahl, L.L.P., Sioux City, and Elizabeth A. Rosenbaum, Sioux City, for appellant.

Martha A. McMinn, Sioux City, for appellee-Maxine Buckmeier.

Suzan E. Boden of Vriezelaar, Tigges, Edgington, Bottaro, Boden & Ross, L.L.P., Sioux City, for appellee-mother.

David L. Gill, Sioux City, for appellee-GAL.

STREIT, Justice.


Shannon, an Iowa resident, is a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe located in California. She became pregnant and decided to give the child up for adoption. She chose a non-Indian family from Arizona to adopt her child. Because her child is eligible for membership in the tribe, the federal and Iowa Indian Child Welfare Acts (ICWA) apply to the child custody proceedings. On appeal, the tribe contests the preadoptive placement of the child with the prospective adoptive family rather than an Indian family in accordance with Iowa ICWA placement preferences. Because we find the Iowa ICWA placement preferences unconstitutional, the federal ICWA placement preferences, which include a "good cause" exception for a parent's request, govern. We remand for the court to determine whether good cause exists to deviate from the federal ICWA placement preferences.

I. Facts and Prior Proceedings.

Shannon lived in Sioux City, Iowa. In late 2005, she became pregnant. She was approximately twenty years old, unmarried, and the mother of two other children. Shannon decided she was unable to care for an additional child and chose to give the child up for adoption. Shannon was referred to Maxine Buckmeier, an adoption attorney in Sioux City. With Buckmeier's help, Shannon chose Jena and Paul, an Arizona couple, to adopt the child. Buckmeier assumed the role of Jena and Paul's attorney.

Shannon is an enrolled member of the Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek Rancheria, which is located in California. Terilynn Steele, the tribe's ICWA program director, informed Buckmeier Shannon's unborn child would be eligible for tribe enrollment.

Shannon gave birth to Nairobi on June 6, 2006. She named two men as possible fathers. On June 9, Shannon signed a release which gave custody of Nairobi to Buckmeier. The stated purpose was "to permit [Buckmeier] to file a petition in juvenile court for the termination of [Shannon's] parental rights...." Buckmeier gave Nairobi to Jena and Paul who have cared for the child since June 9. Buckmeier filed the petition to terminate Shannon's parental rights on June 16. The same day, the juvenile court appointed Buckmeier to serve as Nairobi's custodian.

Jena and Paul told Steele the child was in their care, and a court hearing was scheduled for June 19. Shannon was scheduled to appear in the district court to give her consent to the release of custody and termination of her parental rights for purposes of furthering the adoption. Steele stated such a hearing could not take place because Buckmeier had not formally notified the tribe of the hearing.

On June 19, Shannon appeared before the district court and presented the court with her "Consent to Termination of Parental Rights Pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act," which the court certified. It included the following statement:

I have the right under the Indian Child Welfare Acts to require that the placement

752 N.W.2d 5

preferences of these Acts be followed. I request that my child not be placed with my extended family, but with the family that I have selected who is non-Native American. I understand that the Tyme Maidu Tribe may or may not grant my request.

The following day, Buckmeier sent to the tribe by certified mail, a notice explaining the tribe's rights in the proceedings and the date of the next scheduled hearing (July 27). Included with the notice was a copy of the petition which noted Nairobi had been "in the possession and control of the prospective adoptive parents" since June 9.

On July 25, the tribe filed a motion to intervene and request for continuance. Shannon, Suzan Boden (Shannon's attorney), Buckmeier, and the child's guardian ad litem all appeared before the court on July 27. The court granted the tribe's motion to intervene and continued the hearing until August 30 in order for the tribe to investigate the proposed adoptive placement of the child. See 25 U.S.C. § 1911(c) (2006) (granting an Indian child's tribe the right to intervene); Iowa Code § 232B.5(14) (2005) (same).

On the day before the August 30 hearing, the tribe faxed to the court and the parties a copy of an August 11 tribal resolution which stated among other things (1) Nairobi was eligible for membership in the tribe, (2) its belief ICWA had been violated because "a custody proceeding occurred without notice to the Tribe," (3) its intent to exercise its right to preferred placement if Shannon relinquishes her parental rights, and (4) its appointment of Steele as the tribe's representative. The court continued the hearing until November 1 in order for the parties to explore their legal options in light of the tribe's resolution.

On November 1, a hearing was held before the juvenile court. Buckmeier and Boden (Shannon's attorney) objected to Steele appearing telephonically. Buckmeier noted the tribe had plenty of time to retain counsel and appear on the date of the hearing. The guardian ad litem took the position Steele should not be allowed to present evidence because she was not a lawyer. Steele requested a continuance in order to appear by person. She stated it was the tribe's position Nairobi should not have been removed from the state of Iowa without prior notice to the tribe because such placement constituted foster care or a preadoptive placement.

After noting the only issue before it was termination of Shannon's parental rights and not the adoptive placement, the juvenile court denied Steele's motion to continue, allowed her to stay on the telephone but prohibited her from presenting any evidence. Shannon testified she was consenting to the termination of her rights.

On November 20, prior to the juvenile court's ruling, the tribe issued a subpoena seeking the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC) records for Nairobi. Buckmeier moved to quash the subpoena and a hearing was set for December 12. On November 22, the tribe filed a motion to vacate the June 16 custody order, terminate the ICPC removal, and return the child to Iowa or place the child with a tribe-approved family.

The juvenile court entered an order on December 26 terminating the parental rights of Shannon and the putative fathers. It found the court's September 1 order notified the tribe that participation in the November 1 hearing "was to be done by appearing in person and with legal counsel" and that the tribe had not made a timely request to appear by telephone. The court further ordered Buckmeier to continue to serve as Nairobi's guardian and custodian.

752 N.W.2d 6

On January 17, 2007, the tribe filed a notice of appeal from the termination order. On the same date, the tribe filed a motion requesting the juvenile court to rule on Buckmeier's motion to quash. It also refiled its motion to vacate the custody order.

The next day, the juvenile court issued an order finding Buckmeier met the requirements of Iowa Code chapter 600A and all state and federal ICWA requirements. The court also found the tribe's motion to vacate and its subpoena seeking ICPC records were moot due to the December 26 order terminating the mother's parental rights.

On January 19, the tribe amended its notice of appeal to challenge the termination order and the appointment of Buckmeier as guardian and custodian.

On appeal, the tribe argues (1) the juvenile court erred when it found the parental rights termination proceedings were conducted in compliance with the state and federal ICWA; (2) the juvenile court erred when it held the tribe had to be represented by legal counsel; (3) the juvenile court erred when it overruled the tribe's motion to participate telephonically; (4) the juvenile court erred when it permitted Gerald Denney to testify at the termination hearing when he was not timely disclosed as a witness and was not qualified as an ICWA expert; and (5) the juvenile court erred when it held the tribe's motion to vacate and Buckmeier's motion to quash the tribe's subpoena were mooted by the court's order terminating Shannon's parental rights. The tribe requests we reverse all of the orders of the juvenile court except the order permitting it to intervene.

The appellees — Buckmeier, Shannon, and David Gill (the child's guardian ad litem) — contend the juvenile court fully complied with both the federal and Iowa ICWA. In the alternative, they contend the Iowa ICWA is unconstitutional to the extent it allows a tribe to interfere with a private adoption.

II. Scope of Review.

The standard of review in juvenile proceedings is de novo. In re J.D.F., 553 N.W.2d 585, 587 (Iowa 1996). We review statutory interpretations for correction of errors of law. In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 149 (Iowa 2005). Evidentiary rulings and rulings on motions are generally reviewed for abuse of discretion. In re E.H. III, 578 N.W.2d 243, 245 (Iowa 1998). Constitutional challenges to a statute are reviewed de novo. Wright v. Iowa Dep't of Corr., 747 N.W.2d 213, 216 (Iowa 2008).

III. Merits.

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. See 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901-1963. The legislation

was the product of rising concern in the mid-1970's over the consequences to Indian children, Indian families, and Indian tribes of abusive child welfare practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of Indian children from their families and tribes through adoption or foster care placement,...

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46 practice notes
  • Brackeen v. Haaland, No. 18-11479
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 6 Abril 2021
    ...in many cases." State ex rel. Juvenile Dep't of Lane Cnty. v. Shuey , 119 Or.App. 185, 850 P.2d 378, 381 (1993) ; see also In re N.N.E. , 752 N.W.2d 1, 12 (Iowa 2008) ; J.P.H. v. Fla. Dep't of Children & Families , 39 So. 3d 560 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010) (per curiam). In essence, these sta......
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • 5 Febrero 2010
    ...bonding, and attachment and in sociological aspects of childhood, and was experienced and knowledgeable about ICWA); but see In re N.N.E., 752 N.W.2d 1, 13 (Iowa 2008) (citing Iowa statute which includes within the definition of "qualified expert witness" a "social worker, sociologist, phys......
  • People ex rel. M.V., Court of Appeals No. 17CA2090
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 15 Noviembre 2018
    ...that it held that failure to give adequate notice divested a court of jurisdiction to terminate parental rights. In Interest of N.N.E. , 752 N.W.2d 1, 10 n.3 (Iowa 2008). ¶ 19 Following the majority of states, we conclude that the juvenile court's asserted lack of compliance with ICWA's not......
  • People v. M.M. (In re M.V.), Court of Appeals No. 17CA2090
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 15 Noviembre 2018
    ...it held that failure to give adequate notice divested a court of jurisdictionPage 12 to terminate parental rights. In Interest of N.N.E., 752 N.W.2d 1, 10 n.3 (Iowa 2008).¶ 19 Following the majority of states, we conclude that the juvenile court's asserted lack of compliance with ICWA's not......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • Brackeen v. Haaland, No. 18-11479
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 6 Abril 2021
    ...in many cases." State ex rel. Juvenile Dep't of Lane Cnty. v. Shuey , 119 Or.App. 185, 850 P.2d 378, 381 (1993) ; see also In re N.N.E. , 752 N.W.2d 1, 12 (Iowa 2008) ; J.P.H. v. Fla. Dep't of Children & Families , 39 So. 3d 560 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010) (per curiam). In essence, these sta......
  • In re M.F., No. 100,845.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • 5 Febrero 2010
    ...bonding, and attachment and in sociological aspects of childhood, and was experienced and knowledgeable about ICWA); but see In re N.N.E., 752 N.W.2d 1, 13 (Iowa 2008) (citing Iowa statute which includes within the definition of "qualified expert witness" a "social worker, sociologist, phys......
  • People ex rel. M.V., Court of Appeals No. 17CA2090
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 15 Noviembre 2018
    ...that it held that failure to give adequate notice divested a court of jurisdiction to terminate parental rights. In Interest of N.N.E. , 752 N.W.2d 1, 10 n.3 (Iowa 2008). ¶ 19 Following the majority of states, we conclude that the juvenile court's asserted lack of compliance with ICWA's not......
  • People v. M.M. (In re M.V.), Court of Appeals No. 17CA2090
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 15 Noviembre 2018
    ...it held that failure to give adequate notice divested a court of jurisdictionPage 12 to terminate parental rights. In Interest of N.N.E., 752 N.W.2d 1, 10 n.3 (Iowa 2008).¶ 19 Following the majority of states, we conclude that the juvenile court's asserted lack of compliance with ICWA's not......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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