In re REKF, No. 04-1864

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSTREIT, Justice.
Citation698 N.W.2d 147
PartiesIn the Interest of R.E.K.F., Minor Child, G. F., Father, Appellant.
Decision Date10 June 2005
Docket Number No. 04-1864, No. 05-0251.

698 N.W.2d 147

In the Interest of R.E.K.F., Minor Child,
G. F., Father, Appellant

Nos. 04-1864, 05-0251.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

June 10, 2005.


698 N.W.2d 148
Irene A. Schrunk, Sioux City, for appellant father of R.E.K.F

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd and Tabitha Gardner, Assistant Attorneys General, Thomas S. Mullin, County Attorney, and Dewey Sloan, Assistant County Attorney, for resister State of Iowa.

Marchelle Denker of the Juvenile Law Center, Sioux City, guardian ad litem for minor children.

STREIT, Justice.

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his daughter. He contends the State did not comply with the tribal notice provisions of the Iowa Indian Child Welfare Act. Because the State notified the wrong Indian tribe, we remand for further proceedings.

I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

Garrett is the putative father of Ruby, who was born in July 2003. Four months after her birth, Ruby was adjudicated a child-in-need-of-assistance. In March 2004, the State filed a petition to terminate Garrett's parental rights.

In July 2004, Garrett informed the juvenile court he had "Native American heritage through the Seneca tribe, which is out in the eastern United States, and ... maybe in Canada." Garrett asked the court to continue the trial so that notice of the termination proceedings could be given to this tribe, pursuant to the requirements of the Iowa Indian Child Welfare Act (Iowa ICWA). See Iowa Code § 232B.5(4) (Supp.2003). The juvenile court denied the motion.

Before deciding whether to terminate Garrett's parental rights, however, in November 2004 the juvenile court reconsidered its earlier ruling and ordered the State to notify "the Seneca Tribe" of the proceedings. The juvenile court decreed that if "the Seneca Tribe" did not request to intervene before the end of the year, the court would close the record and issue its decision on the termination.

The State promptly sent notice of the termination proceedings to the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe in Miami, Oklahoma. In December 2004, the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma notified the State that Ruby was not a member of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma. In February 2005, the juvenile court determined the Iowa ICWA statute did not apply and terminated Garrett's rights. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(d), (l).

Garrett appealed. He argued, among other things, that the State did not comply with the tribal notice requirements of the Iowa ICWA, there was insufficient evidence to support the termination, and the termination was not in Ruby's best interests. The court of appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion.1

Garrett sought further review, which we granted. Although we retain the discretion to reexamine all issues raised in the initial appeal, in this case we only consider Garrett's Iowa ICWA tribal notice claim.2

698 N.W.2d 149
Cf. Bokhoven v. Klinker, 474 N.W.2d 553, 557 (Iowa 1991) (remarking that supreme court "may review any or all of the issues initially raised on appeal"). We affirm the decision of the court of appeals in all other respects

II. Principles of Review

Our review of termination cases is ordinarily de novo. See, e.g., In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000). To the extent Garrett's claim of error rests upon statutory interpretation, however, our review is for correction of errors of law. See In re E.H. III, 578 N.W.2d 243, 245 (Iowa 1998). The provisions of the Iowa ICWA are to be strictly construed and applied. Cf. In re J.W., 498 N.W.2d 417, 421 (Iowa Ct.App.1993).

III. Motion to Strike

Before attending to the merits of Garrett's appeal, we must resolve a pending motion. In his further review brief, Garrett attached several exhibits which were not part of the record before the juvenile court. The State moved to strike this additional information. We grant the State's motion to strike. See In re M.M., 483 N.W.2d 812, 815 (Iowa 1992) (holding appeal of termination is limited to information that is part of the record); see also In re E.A., 552 N.W.2d 135, 138 (Iowa 1996) (similar).

IV. The Merits

A. Tribal Notice

At issue in this appeal are the tribal notice provisions of the Iowa ICWA. Those provisions require the juvenile court to notify the proper Indian tribe whenever it has reason to know that an Indian child may be involved in an involuntary termination. In particular, Iowa ICWA states:

[T]he court shall establish in the record that the party seeking ... termination of parental rights over ... an Indian child has sent notice by registered mail, return receipt requested, to ... [a]ny tribe in which the child may be a member or eligible for membership.

Iowa Code § 232B.5(4); see also id. § 232B.4(2). Notice must be given even if doubts remain about whether the child is an Indian child, because elsewhere the Iowa ICWA states

the court or any party to the proceeding shall be deemed to know or have reason to know that an Indian child is involved whenever ... the court or a party has been informed by any interested person... that the child is or may be an Indian child.

Id. § 232B.5(3). Whether or not a child is an Indian child is, after all, a question for the tribe to answer in the first instance. Id. § 232B.4(3); see J.W., 498 N.W.2d at 422 ("The tribes are the arbitrators of their own membership."); see also In re J.L.M., 234 Neb. 381, 451 N.W.2d 377, 387 (1990) ("Formal membership requirements differ from tribe to tribe. . . ."). Only if the Indian tribe does not provide evidence of the child's status as an Indian child may the juvenile court determine the matter itself. Iowa Code § 232B.4(3). Taken together, the foregoing...

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186 practice notes
  • State ex rel. M.J. v. State , No. 20090675–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • December 28, 2011
    ...in the majority of cases, because of the important interests involved “it is better to err on the side of giving notice.” In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 149 (Iowa 2005). 7. Mother and Father claim the juvenile court erred in reviewing documentary evidence concerning the Oglala Sioux Tribe'......
  • In re A.J.S., No. 99,130.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 27, 2009
    ...§ 26.10.034(1) (2004); Wash. Rev.Code § 26.33.040(1) (2004); Adoption of Crews, 118 Wash.2d 561, 825 P.2d 305 (1992); In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 151 (Iowa 2005); Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 40.3 (2001). In South Dakota, the court merely recognized that the existing Indian family doctrine wa......
  • J.J. v. State, Case No. 20090675-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • November 25, 2011
    ...in the majority of cases, because of the important interests involved "it is better to err on the side of giving notice." In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 149 (Iowa 2005). 7.Mother and Father claim the juvenile court erred in reviewing documentary evidence concerning the Oglala Sioux Tribe's......
  • J.J. v. State, Case No. 20090675-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • November 25, 2011
    ...in the majority of cases, because of the important interests involved "it is better to err on the side of giving notice." In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 149 (Iowa 2005). 7.Mother and Father claim the juvenile court erred in reviewing documentary evidence concerning the Oglala Sioux Tribe's......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
186 cases
  • State ex rel. M.J. v. State , No. 20090675–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • December 28, 2011
    ...in the majority of cases, because of the important interests involved “it is better to err on the side of giving notice.” In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 149 (Iowa 2005). 7. Mother and Father claim the juvenile court erred in reviewing documentary evidence concerning the Oglala Sioux Tribe'......
  • In re A.J.S., No. 99,130.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 27, 2009
    ...§ 26.10.034(1) (2004); Wash. Rev.Code § 26.33.040(1) (2004); Adoption of Crews, 118 Wash.2d 561, 825 P.2d 305 (1992); In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 151 (Iowa 2005); Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 40.3 (2001). In South Dakota, the court merely recognized that the existing Indian family doctrine wa......
  • J.J. v. State, Case No. 20090675-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • November 25, 2011
    ...in the majority of cases, because of the important interests involved "it is better to err on the side of giving notice." In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 149 (Iowa 2005). 7.Mother and Father claim the juvenile court erred in reviewing documentary evidence concerning the Oglala Sioux Tribe's......
  • J.J. v. State, Case No. 20090675-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • November 25, 2011
    ...in the majority of cases, because of the important interests involved "it is better to err on the side of giving notice." In re R.E.K.F., 698 N.W.2d 147, 149 (Iowa 2005). 7.Mother and Father claim the juvenile court erred in reviewing documentary evidence concerning the Oglala Sioux Tribe's......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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