Unpublished ICWA Notice Case out of California (First District)


The First District of California seems to be trying a new way to deal with notice violations in ICWA cases by detailing the mistakes in the notice in the opinion. The first time we saw it was in September (here). In this case, a different division in the same District did a similar analysis.

As to the Chippewa Cree tribe, the notice for G.B.-C. was sent to Chippewa Cree Indians, Brenda Gardiner, ICWA Rep, RR1, P.O. Box 544, Box Elder, Montana 59521. According to the Department’s proof of service, the notice for M.B.-C. was sent to the same address. The address specified for the tribe in the Federal Register was Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation of Montana, Christina Trottier, ICWA Director, 31 Agency Square, Box Elder, MT 59521. (79 Fed.Reg. 3225 (January 17, 2014).) Although the city, state and zip code were the same, the addresses were completely different.
The Department asserts the notice was nevertheless adequate because the P.O. Box address it used to provide notice to the Chippewa Cree tribe was the one that was listed on the State Department of Social Services’s (CDSS) website.4The Department relies on In re N.M., supra, 161 Cal.App.4th at page 268, in which the court held the child welfare agency did not err in using the names and addresses provided by CDSS in notifying the relevant tribes, stating: “The Department should not be hamstrung by limitation to only the names and addresses provided for the tribes in the Federal Register if a more current or accurate listing is available and is reasonably calculated to provide prompt and actual notice to the tribes.
While requiring the Department to adhere to an address listed in the federal register when other, more accurate information is available elsewhere “would exalt form over substance,” (In re N.M., supra, 161 Cal.App.4th at p. 268), we must still respect the Department of Interior’s primary authority in administering ICWA (In re S.B. (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 1148, 1157 [the federal regulations implementing ICWA “are binding in all federal and state courts by virtue of the supremacy clause”] ). ICWA notice may depart from the addresses listed in the federal register, but only when the alternative address is “more current or accurate.” (In re N.M., supra, 161 Cal.App.4th at p. 268.)
Here, there is nothing in the record indicating the CDSS address the Department used was more current or accurate than the address listed in the Federal Register. Thus, while the return receipt received for the notice sent for G.B.-C. shows that someone at the CDSS address received the notice, there is no basis to conclude the notice was received by someone at the Chippewa Cree tribe who was “trained and authorized to make the necessary ICWA determinations, including whether the minors are members or eligible for membership and whether the tribe will elect to participate in the proceedings.” (In re J.T., supra, 154 Cal.App.4th at p. 994.)”
This entry was posted in Author: Kate E. Fort, Child Welfare, ICWA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Unpublished ICWA Notice Case out of California (First District)

  1. Richard Monette says:

    While not defending the state courts, this development can and should be a learning moment for tribes. Due to post-9/11 developments, many tribes/headquarters indeed have a different physical address than their ICWA offices. Tribes should have, and still should, have exercised greater control of the 9/11 – 9.1.1 emergency systems in their territories, including road names and addresses, rather than lazily subordinating to state and federal exercises, as usual for many tribes. This is also an opportunity to put into their own laws, like the fed and most states do, that to be valid, notice must go not the Department but also to the tribe’s AG or equivalent. At least then we’d have a writing to confront the states with in court. And of course the tribe should require its own Departments to notify the tribe/tribe’s leaders/tribe’s AG.

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