Breaking News

“Baby Veronica” adoption ordered

The adoption of the little girl known in a child custody saga as “Baby Veronica” has been approved by a family court in Charleston, South Carolina, the child’s biological father notified the Supreme Court on Thursday.   Attorneys for Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, disclosed the family court’s action in the final filing in the Court in his attempt to postpone the child’s adoption by anyone other than him or his family.

The action by the state court, giving full legal custody to the child to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a non-Indian couple living near Charleston, came yesterday at a closed hearing.  All of the materials of that proceeding, including the final adoption and custody order, are under seal, by state law.  The family court also approved a “transition plan,” the details of which are also secret, that will mean the child — living with her father in Oklahoma for about nineteen months — will not be transferred immediately to her new home.  A counseling arrangement apparently is part of the transition plan.  “Baby Veronica” will be four years old next month.

The final legal outcome of the case, however, remains somewhat uncertain at this point, because the girl’s father’s request for the Supreme Court to intervene is still pending before Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.  Although Roberts asked for a formal response to the father’s plea, the Chief Justice has taken no other action; it is unknown whether he intends to act on his own or share the controversy with his colleagues.

All of the legal filings that appear to be reaching the Court in this round of the dispute have now been logged in, including a brief opposing the father’s efforts, by a South Carolina woman, Jo M. Prowell, who was appointed by the family court as the guardian of “Baby Veronica” during the legal proceedings — including the review of the case by the Supreme Court, leading to a decision against the father’s adoption prospects on June 25.

“Baby Veronica” has been at the center of this highly emotional legal dispute between her birth parents — on opposite sides of the controversy — and the Charleston-area couple whom the birth mother chose as the preferred parents.  Following last month’s Supreme Court decision, interpreting a federal law on legal custody of Indian children, the case has been unfolding virtually at the same time in South Carolina state courts and in the Supreme Court once again.

Besides resisting the adoption efforts in South Carolina courts, the father and his legal team have been pursuing various legal maneuvers in a state court in Oklahoma, in a Cherokee tribal court, and in a federal district court in South Carolina.   None of those has stopped the adoption proceeding in the South Carolina courts.

Because all of the expected filings have been docketed at the Supreme Court, action could come there at any time.   Among the options that appear to be open to the Chief Justice, or to the full Court, are simply to refuse to block the state court proceedings, or to declare the dispute “moot” now that there is a final adoption order.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, “Baby Veronica” adoption ordered, SCOTUSblog (Aug. 1, 2013, 8:31 PM),