Federal Court Gives Full Faith and Credit to Navajo Customary Adoption Order

A small part of this case, but important nonetheless. Here are the materials in Kinlichee v. United States (D. Ariz.):

Chinle District Court Order Validating Adoption

DCT Order Denying US Motion to Dismiss

DCT Order re Settlement

Federal Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiffs’ Response

From the opinion:

It is undisputed that Ms. Davis is a Navajo and that Mr. Kinlichee was as well. (Doc. 52–1 at 1–2). It is undisputed that the alleged negligence in this case occurred within the Navajo Nation. (Doc. 1 at 1–2). It is undisputed that Ms. Davis obtained an order in the Family Court of the Navajo Nation validating her Navajo common law adoption by Mr. Kinlichee. (Doc. 52–1 at 1–10). Although the adoption was posthumous as to Mr. Kinlichee and retroactive to 2003, the Navajo court granted the adoption. See (Doc. 52–1 at 1, 10).

Additionally, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a state must give full faith and credit to adoption decrees issued by the tribal court of a Native American sovereign. Venetie I.R.A. Council v. Alaska, 944 F.2d 548, 562 (9th Cir.1991). There is no issue known to the Court, or raised here, suggesting that the Navajo Nation lacks the status of a Native American sovereign, and its tribal court granted Ms. Davis an adoption order. If Ms. Davis had been legally adopted by Mr. Kinlichee in another state, and then became a tort plaintiff in the District of Arizona, that adoption likely would not be questioned, or legally analyzed for its merits, before Ms. Davis would be granted standing. Accordingly, this Court must recognize the order of the Navajo court validating Mr. Kinlichee’s adoption of Ms. Davis.
Therefore, as to Ms. Davis, the Court denies Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for lack of standing.
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