Veronica could make history

Glenn Smith, Crime / Charleston life

UPDATED: Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:23 a.m.

The biological father: Dusten Brown claimed the right to his daughter under the Indian child Welfare Act, which claims to preserve parental rights and tribal sanctity.














When Matt and Melanie Capobianco watched the birth of their adoptive daughter in 2009, they had no idea their love for this little girl would put them at the center of a decades-old national debate with racial, cultural and political overtones.

But that’s exactly where the James Island couple have found themselves after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed this month to take up their long-running custody battle with 3-year-old Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, a Cherokee Indian.

The decision, which surprised many legal scholars, marks the first time in more than two decades that the high court has taken up a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 federal law aimed at preserving American Indian families, tribes and their heritage.

Among other things, the act gives American Indian parents preference in custody disputes involving Native American children.

South Carolina courts cited the act in forcing the Capobiancos in late 2011 to turn over Veronica to Brown, who was a stranger to the child.

He returned home to Oklahoma with Veronica, and the Capobiancos haven’t seen her since.

Oral arguments are expected as soon as April, and the case is being closely watched by a variety of groups with a stake in its outcome — tribal groups, adoption agencies and attorneys, Indian law and constitutional-rights experts. It has the potential to affect the way thousands of adoptions are handled each year and alter the playing field for Native American groups from coast-to-coast.

Predicting the way the high court will rule is always a dicey proposition. But the speed with which the court grabbed the case leads many observers to suspect that the justices intend to make a bold statement on this contentious subject. After all, the high court hears only about 1 percent of the roughly 10,000 cases submitted for its consideration each year.

But the justices’ aim remains a mystery.

“I’m a little bit perplexed by this,” said Lorie M. Graham, a professor and Indian law scholar at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. “You would really have to look long and hard to find ambiguity in this legislation. There is not a lot of room for interpretation here.”

Marcia Zug, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law and an expert in American Indian law, agreed. But that doesn’t mean the court isn’t looking toward change, she said.

“The Supreme Court doesn’t take up cases just to affirm them,” she said.

Zug said she believes South Carolina courts ruled correctly, and she can find no legal basis for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. She fears the high court is looking to dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act, which she said many consider to be the most important piece of American Indian legislation ever passed.

“It strikes me that the Supreme Court is looking for a way to overthrow (the act), and I really don’t see how they can do that,” she said.

Tribal groups have similar fears, and they worry that the court is preparing to roll back protections put into place to keep outsiders from legally stealing children from their tribes through coercive adoptions and deceit.

The law aims to preserve parental rights and tribal sanctity, placing a child first with blood relatives and, in their absence, with a tribe member.

“We are very concerned,” said Terry Cross, executive director of the Oregon-based National Indian Child Welfare Association. “We don’t want to go back to those times when those deceptive practices were the norm and people felt like they could take our children away in this manner.”

Others say the law is complicated, confusing and applied differently from state to state and from tribe to tribe. They argue that a Supreme Court review is much needed and would likely result in clearer guidelines for all to follow, potentially avoiding the heartache and drama surrounding Veronica’s case.

“What we are looking for is some clarity, not necessarily a dismantling of the act,” said Washington state attorney Mark Demaray, immediate past president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, which has submitted briefs in the Veronica case. “We need to know what the rules of the game are.”

Divisive decisions

Before Veronica was born in September 2009 in Oklahoma, her biological parents canceled their engagement and went separate ways. Brown, an Army soldier, acknowledged paternity in text messages to the mother, but did not give her financial support.

The Capobiancos, who had been through seven failed attempts at in vitro fertilization, met Veronica’s mother through an adoption agency, developed a close relationship with her and adopted the baby at birth. The mother is not an American Indian.

Brown filed for paternity and custody after learning of the adoption four months later, and, as an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, argued his case under the Indian Child Welfare Act.

A Charleston County family court judge sided with Brown, and the Capobiancos were forced to surrender the girl to him on New Year’s Eve 2011. The couple then appealed that decision, but failed to win over the state Supreme Court, which upheld the family court ruling by a 3-2 vote in July.

The justices said they ruled with “a heavy heart,” but they were bound by law to give Brown an edge. Though Brown did not support the girl’s mother during pregnancy, his rights as a parent should not be stripped, the court confirmed.

The rulings have fueled strong feelings on both sides.

The Capobiancos’ supporters argue that the courts overlooked Veronica’s best interests, split a loving family and ignored the wishes of Veronica’s birth mother just because Brown is an Indian.

Johnston Moore, a founding member of the Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children & Families, had this to say in an opinion piece published in The Oklahoman, “It was the unfair exploitation of the law’s loopholes that gave rights to a biological father who would have had no rights under state law, resulting in an innocent little girl’s world being turned upside down in an instant.”

Brown’s supporters say the law was fairly applied, helping to reunite Veronica — dubbed “Little Star” by the Cherokee — with her loving father and preserve their culture. They are hoping the high court will do nothing to change that.

“Cherokee Nation believes that ICWA is one of the most important federal laws for the continued existence of tribes,” said Chrissi Nimmo Ross, assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “The Cherokee Nation is hopeful that the Supreme Court has accepted this case to confirm the lower court decisions and reaffirm the importance of ICWA at the federal level.”

Wide interest

The case and its emotional underpinnings have attracted widespread national attention as it moves through the courts.

The Capobiancos have appeared on the Dr. Phil show, and their story has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications. They also reportedly have fielded offers from Oprah Winfrey’s network, CNN and People magazine to chronicle their legal journey.

For now, however, the couple is keeping a low profile and declining interviews on the advice of their attorneys before the Supreme Court hearing.

Family spokeswoman Jessica Munday would say only that “they are hopeful, and it lies in the hands of the court now.”

The couple has some heavy legal hitters on their side, including Washington, D.C., attorney Lisa Blatt. Blatt has won 29 of the 30 cases she has argued before the Supreme Court. Washingtonian Magazine named Blatt a “superstar” lawyer and one of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Washington.”

Paul Clement, U.S. solicitor general from 2005-08, is working on behalf of the guardian ad litem in the case and has filed a brief in support of returning Veronica to the Capobiancos.

On the other side, Washington, D.C., lawyer Charles Rothfeld is representing Brown and the Cherokee Nation. Rothfeld has worked on more than 200 cases that have gone before the high court, and the National Law Journal last year named him “one of the leading members of the Supreme Court bar.”

Charleston lawyer Shannon Jones, Brown’s local counsel, said Rothfeld also has law students from Yale University working on the case. He is founder and co-director of the Yale Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic, among the largest appellate advocacy programs in the nation.

A tough call

Zug, the USC law professor, said the case should have never reached this point. Had Veronica’s Indian heritage been properly considered from the start, the adoption likely never would have gotten to the point it did, she said.

“There shouldn’t have been this emotional heartbreak,” Zug said.

Yet here we are.

The Capobiancos have said they have been emotionally devastated by the loss of the daughter that became the center of their world.

Brown’s lawyer has said he too has been victimized, vilified for asserting his parental rights and rattled by the venom directed at him.

The Indian Child Welfare Act has been reviewed only once at the highest level. In 1989, Justice William Brennan’s ruling sided with Mississippi’s Choctaw tribe, which challenged an adoption of twins.

In a recent television interview with Charlie Rose, Justice Antonin Scalia, who joined with the majority in 1989, described the case as among the toughest of his career.

Now, Scalia will get another opportunity to weigh in on the law with a court that has a different makeup and, perhaps, a different perspective, said William B. Allen, emeritus professor of political science philosophy at Michigan State University and former chairman of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Ronald Reagan.

Allen, who has been critical of the Indian Child Welfare Act, said the case carries the potential for the court to weigh the constitutional implications of the law and manner in which it is applied. But he is not surprised that the justices have sidestepped the issue for so long.

“I appreciate and understand the court’s reluctance to open this area because federal Indian law is an ugly morass and a big black hole in our law,” he said. “The court has probably wisely decided to stay away from it before now.”



Burn ban lowered to Stage 1 for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties

Source: Puget Sound Clean Air Agency


Please rely on your home’s cleaner source of heat until air quality improves.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is lowering the air quality burn ban to a Stage 1 in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties effective at 1 PM on January 15, 2013. The ban remains in effect until further notice.

“Air pollution levels throughout the region have dropped, likely due to clouds and warmer temperatures,” said Dr. Phil Swartzendruber, agency forecaster. “The drop in pollution could also be due to the help of our communities following the burn ban.”

Dr. Swartzendruber added, “Calm, cold, and clear weather conditions are likely to continue over the next few days, so ongoing cooperation with the burn ban will help keep our air healthy.”

The Clean Air Agency will continue to closely monitor the air quality and weather situation.

During a Stage 1 burn ban:

  • No burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood stoves. Residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is cancelled.
  • No outdoor fires are allowed. This includes recreational fires such as bonfires, campfires and the use of fire pits and chimineas.
  • Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.

It is OK to use natural gas, propane, pellet and EPA-certified wood stoves or inserts during a Stage 1 burn ban.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung and heart problems, people with diabetes, children, and older adults (over age 65).


NCAI Statement of Support for Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Rights of Canada’s First Nations to Consultation

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
Embassy of Tribal Nations
1516 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 466-7767

Published on Jan 10, 2013

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has released the following statement in support of the First Nations of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) efforts to hold the Canadian government accountable to its commitment to consultation.

On Friday January 11, 2013, AFN will host a meeting of a delegation coordinated by AFN and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of his Cabinet. The meeting comes after AFN and First Nations have called for improved nation-to-nation consultations following legislation passed by the Canadian Parliament in December 2012, Bill C-45; Jobs and Growth Act, 2012. AFN and First Nations expressed opposition prior to and following the passage of Bill C-45, which fails to respect the Treaties and rights of First Nations.

“NCAI supports AFN and the rights of Canada’s First Nations to nation-to-nation consultation and calls on the Canadian Government to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Canada and the United States have both adopted. As stated in the Declaration, and has been proven time and time again, consultations between indigenous peoples including tribal nations and the governments of North America, are essential to crafting a vision for a shared future,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI, the United States’ oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native advocacy organization.

“We stand united as the tribal nations of North America, as a family of first peoples and first governments of this land, and we stand united to protect our rights. There may be a border separating Canada and the United States, however as first Nations of North America we are not separate, and we will not be divided. And nor should we be divided in our nation-to-nation relationships,” continued Keel.

“Tribal nations of the United States have recently engaged in extensive and improved nation-to-nation consultations as a result of the Obama Administration’s commitment to upholding the U.S. President’s Executive Order on Consultation. These consultations have resulted in strong tribal nations, and a stronger America. We look forward to hearing from AFN the results of tomorrow’s discussions with Prime Minister Steven Harper and the Canadian Government. We stand ready to support AFN and the First Nations of Canada as they take important action to protect the rights, lands, and resources of First Nations and people,” Keel concluded.

United Way free tax preparation site in Marysville opens Jan. 22

United Way of Snohomish County,

(Marysville, WA) – Last year, volunteers at the free tax preparation center organized by United Way of Snohomish County helped 347 customers file their taxes and brought back $516,974 in refunds. That money gave a boost to the local economy, built up savings and helped people pay off credit card debt.

This year, the free tax preparation center in Marysville will be located at Goodwill’s Marysville Job Training and Education Center on 9315 State Ave. The site will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to from January 22 to April 15.

This service is available for households earning $51,000 or less.

The Marysville site is one of six sites being opened by United Way throughout Snohomish County. The others will be in Everett, Lynnwood and Monroe. All of the sites will be staffed by United Way volunteer tax preparers.

In 2012, 2,511 Snohomish County working families had their taxes prepared for free at a United Way Tax Preparation Site, saving an estimated $414,315 in tax preparation fees. United Way customers had an average refund of $1,700, which amounted to nearly $4.28 million in refunds (including $1.25 million in Earned Income Tax Credits).

Over the past six years, United Way volunteers have prepared 9,181 tax returns worth more than $15 million in refunds for Snohomish County working families.

This year’s sponsors and partners include The Boeing Company, the Washington State Department of Commerce, Moss Adams, LLP, Goodwill, the Walmart Foundation, and the Internal Revenue Service.

What You Should Bring

Although no appointment is necessary, people should bring a picture ID; social security card or tax identification number for everyone on the return; W2s or other income statements from all employers, any 1099 forms; the name, address and tax ID number for your child care provider; records of student loan payments; record of payments for educational expenses such as college tuition; mortgage interest and property tax statements; a bank account number to receive your refund via direct deposit; last year’s tax return – if you have it; and if you’re filing jointly, both spouses must be present to file electronically.

For more information, please visit or call 2-1-1 for information and referrals.


Cantwell Names Indian Affairs Committee Staff Director

U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Incoming U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced Friday that Mary J. Pavel will serve as Staff Director for the committee in the 113th Congress.
Pavel, a member of the Skokomish Tribe of the state of Washington, is an expert on Tribal law and policy. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Washington School of Law, Pavel became one of the first Native American women to be made a partner in a National Indian Law Firm. She joined Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry in 1992 and became a partner in January 1999.
Pavel is the Founding President of the Native American Bar Association of Washington, D.C., and is a member of both the Washington State Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar Association.
“Mary is well-known as one of the best and sharpest policy experts in Native American and Alaska Native policy and law,” Cantwell said. “Mary grew up in Washington state and understands the diverse issues facing Tribes in the Pacific Northwest and across the country. I look forward to working with Mary to improve economic opportunity, strengthen education and increase access to health care for all of Indian Country. With Mary on board, I am confident that the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is ready to tackle tough issues and make significant progress for Tribes.”

Tulalip supports Chief Seattle Club through clothing donations

Chief Seattle Club volunteer Robert Brown helps to haul in the donation of clothing and blankets from Tulalip.
Chief Seattle Club volunteer Robert Brown helps to haul in the donation of clothing and blankets from Tulalip.

By Jeannie Briones, Tulalip News staff

SEATTLE, Wash. – The Chief Seattle Club has been serving urban American Indians and Alaska Natives for the past four decades. It’s a safe place where homeless and low income Native Americans can receive help; enjoy a hot meal, and access social services.

“In addition to providing meals we also have nurses that come here every day from the Seattle Indian Health Board for healthcare. Downstairs there’s the laundry, people can wash their own clothes, take a showers, and get hygiene items. We also have a clothing bank. We provide financial assistance for those that are trying to get into housing or trying to prevent from being evicted from their current housing. We also offer bus passes, and ID cards,” said Jenine Grey, Chief Seattle Club Executive Director.

The Chief Seattle Club thrives on donations to provide care and essential needs for Native Americans. Sizable donations from outside communities, such as the Tulalip Tribes, help to keep the Club running successfully.  Every month, Donald “Penoke” Hatch, Tulalip Tribes Board of Director, delivers a truck load of donations that are given by the Tulalip community, consisting of new and used clothing, sleeping bags, blankets, and other essential items.

“I bring 12 to 15 truck loads a year. I want to help my people. There are a lot of different areas within the tribe that are donating things,” said Don.

Tulalip Tribal member Donald "Penoke" Hatch
Tulalip Tribal member Donald “Penoke” Hatch on his monthly visit to the Club.

The Chief Seattle Club staff is always in need of sleeping bags, jeans, sweatshirts, jackets, socks, underwear, backpacks, towels, and toiletries.

Among the many benefits offered at the Club, Native Americans can join in on the Sunday service, held every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. with Father Pat Twohy.

The Chief Seattle Club is located at 410 2nd Ave. Extension South, Seattle, WA 98104. For more information about the Chief Seattle Club and donation hours, please contact, Executive Director, Jenine Grey at 206-292-6214 and email

Jeannie Briones: 360-716-4188;


Falcons defeat Seahawks 30 – 28

By Monica Brown

On Sunday it was an unfortunate end to the season for the Seahawks as they went up against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional playoff game. Seahawks had a an almost painful to watch first half and an exciting second half but just when we thought they had it, the Falcons came in during the last seconds (literally seconds) to win by a field goal, ending the game 30 – 28.

Stage 2 Burb Ban in effect for King, Pierce & Snohomish Counties until further notice

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
Please rely on your home’s cleaner source of heat until air quality improves
SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2013 – The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is issuing a Stage 2 burn ban in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties to protect residents from worsening air quality.  The bans are effective at noon, Sunday, January 13, 2013 and remain in effect until further notice.
Overnight, many areas around the Puget Sound reached air pollution levels of “UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS”, especially in areas where wood burning is common.  Agency forecasters expect the current cold, dry, and stagnant weather conditions to extend well into the week.  The Clean Air Agency will continue to closely monitor the air quality and weather situation.
During a Stage 2 burn ban:
  • No burning is allowed in ANY wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves or fireplace inserts (certified or uncertified) or pellet stoves. Residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is cancelled. The only exception is if a wood stove is a home’s only adequate source of heat.
  • No outdoor fires are allowed. This includes recreational fires such as bonfires, campfires and the use of fire pits and chimineas.
  • Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.
It is OK to use natural gas and propane stoves or inserts during a Stage 2 burn ban.
The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung and heart problems, people with diabetes, children, and older adults (over age 65).
(Note: The Seattle Parks Department prohibits beach fires at Alki and Golden Gardens during the burn ban.)
For more information:

Tulalip Tribal Member Charged in Death of Toddler

Source: 7th Space,

An enrolled member of the Tulalip Tribes was charged today with second-degree murder and two counts of criminal mistreatment related to the October 2012 death of her young daughter and the neglect of her second daughter, announced United States Attorney Jenny A Durkan. Christina D Carlson will make her initial appearance in United States District Court in Seattle at 2:30 today. Carlson was transferred to federal custody this morning and the criminal complaint was unsealed. The complaint describes how on October 8, 2012, emergency crews were called to an address on Marine Drive NE on the Tulalip Tribal Reservation where Carlson was performing CPR on her 19-month-old daughter, who was unresponsive on a blanket on the ground.

The child was unconscious, not breathing, and covered in urine and feces. A second child, a 33-month old girl, was found strapped in her car seat in a nearby vehicle. The child was pale, unresponsive, and covered in urine and feces. The girl was transported to the hospital and later recovered.

The 19-month old child died and the Snohomish County Medical examiner classified the manner of death as homicide by parental neglect. According to the report, the child was malnourished and dehydrated, weighing only 19 pounds. The child’s skin in the diaper area was excoriated and infested with maggots. Her hair was infested with lice.

The investigation revealed that Carlson had been living in the car with the girls on the property since mid-September. On October 8, 2012, Carlson had left the girls in the car while she went to use a phone at the residence on the property. Carlson was away from the car for more than an hour by some estimates. About 20 minutes after the neighbors told her to go back to the car and her children, Carlson returned asking them to call 9-1-1 because the youngest child was unresponsive.

Second-degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison. Criminal mistreatment is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the Tulalip Tribal Police and the FBI. Press contact for the United States Attorney’s Office is Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

States want to arm Teachers

By Monica Brown, Tulalip News staff

In light of the mass shootings having taken place many states are taking action. States are either reviewing gun control policies or choosing more proactive ways to protect themselves. While Oregon, the location of the Clackamas Town Center shooting, is divided on whether or not they are pro-gun and Washington has recently offered a Gun buyback program part of a gun safety initiative in order to reduce gun violence, Alaska is definitely pro-gun.

As stated in the Anchorage Daily News, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich stated that he had no current interest in a ban on sales of assault weapons in this country. Begich said decision-makers can’t “jump to the clamor of emotion” and create legislation that they think will be the “magic solution” to gun violence. He says there’s a broader issue of violence and a need for improved mental health services that need to be looked at.

The Alaska State Legislature will consider House Bill 55 sponsored by Republican Rep. Bob Lynn,

“An Act allowing school districts and private schools to adopt a policy authorizing one or more permanent employees to possess one or more firearms on school grounds under certain conditions.”

Alaska is not the only state mulling around the idea of arming their teachers, other states such as Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Alabama are also taking to the idea of arming teachers and school personnel.

Seattle’s first buyback will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 in downtown Seattle in the parking lot underneath Interstate 5 between Cherry and James Streets. The Seattle Police Department will monitor the buyback.


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