South Dakota Supreme Court Overturns Denial of Transfer to Tribal Court

Here.

We agree that the court’s denial of the request to transfer was improper. It is undisputed that the circuit court refused to hold a separate evidentiary hearing on the question of good cause. And the court’s commentary on the issue during the December 14, 2015 review hearing consists only of the following:

Well, it’s going to be the Court’s finding that the motion to transfer is not timely and it’s going to be denied in this case. I note this case is—was open last November, 2014. The [T]ribe’s apparently been aware of it for more than a year. No efforts were made to get it transferred before this time, and I—my real concern is, it just is contrary to the interests of the children to start over from square one after a year has proceeded in the matter, so that motion is going to be denied.

As noted above, in determining whether the motions to transfer were timely, the court was required to consider all the particular circumstances of this case, not simply the amount of time that had passed since the proceedings first began. See id. at 600. Although this case was over one year old, it had not yet reached final disposition. Without knowing the Tribe’s and Mother’s reasons for waiting to seek transfer, the circuit court necessarily did not consider all the circumstances of this case.

The court’s finding that transferring jurisdiction was not in the best interest of the Children is susceptible of the same criticism. As above, the absence of specific factual findings precludes meaningful review. The Tribe intervened and has been involved in this case since nearly its beginning. The Tribe has been represented at each of Mother’s review hearings. The circuit court did not identify any reason to conclude that transferring jurisdiction to the Tribe would have amounted to a “start over from square one[.]”

This entry was posted in Author: Kate E. Fort, Child Welfare, ICWA and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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