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Swift response in “Baby Veronica” case

Seeking to speed up Supreme Court action on the legal status of the child known as “Baby Veronica,” lawyers for a South Carolina couple argued on Tuesday that the child’s father — a member of the Cherokee Nation — has put up repeated obstacles to the early resolution of the interstate legal fight over custody of the little girl.   The couple’s attorney filed, three days early, their response to a request by the birth father’s attorneys to delay a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling awarding final custody of the child to the couple.  The father wants that decision overturned.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has been considering the birth father’s challenge to the custody decision, and had sought a reply from the couple to be filed by Friday afternoon.   One day after getting that order, the couple’s lawyers answered, accusing both the Oklahoma man who is the child’s natural father and the Cherokee Nation of refusing to abide by the South Carolina ruling.  “Birth Father has filed a series of frivolous and vexatious motions” in the family court in Charleston to try to delay the transfer of “Baby Veronica” to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who live near Charleston.  The father is Dusten Brown, who lives in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.  (The actual names of all those involved are not being mentioned in the legal filings.)

Among other complaints against Brown, the couple said that his attorneys “have publicly called upon Oklahoma courts to defy the orders of the South Carolina Supreme Court” and have “ominously implied that law enforcement officers may have to enforce the return of Baby Girl to South Carolina.”  The father, the filing said, has refused to cooperate with a “transition plan” that the couple proposed to ease the child’s transition back to living with them.  After the child’s birth, the Capobiancos began raising the child at the specific request of the little girl’s birth mother.  Despite their accusations of misconduct by the father, the couple’s lawyers said they still are prepared to work out an arrangement for him to have a role in Baby Veronica’s life and to try to help preserve her identity as a descendant of a Cherokee family.

The child, who will be four years old in September, has been living with Brown for more than eighteen months.   She was taken to live with him after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in his favor under a federal Indian child adoption law.  That ruling was overturned a month ago by the Supreme Court, setting the stage for the South Carolina tribunal to move ahead, ruling in favor of the Charleston-area couple.

It is unknown whether Chief Justice Roberts will act on his own on the father’s application, or refer it to the full Court.  There is no timetable for action at the Supreme Court, but action is not expected to be delayed for long.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Swift response in “Baby Veronica” case, SCOTUSblog (Jul. 30, 2013, 11:33 PM),