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Doe v. Jesson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 2, 2015

JANE DOE and JOHN DOE, individually and on behalf of Baby Doe, Plaintiffs,
v.
LUCINDA E. JESSON, in her official capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, LORI SWANSON, in her official capacity as Minnesota Attorney General, and SAMUEL MOOSE, in his official capacity as Commissioner of Health and Human Services for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Defendants.

Jeffrey S. Storms, NEWMARK STORMS LAW OFFICE, 100 South Fifth Street, Suite 2000, Minneapolis, MN 55402; Mark D. Fiddler, FIDDLER LAW OFFICE, P.A., 6800 France Avenue South, Suite 190, Edina, MN 55435; and R. Daniel Rasmus, HOVLAND AND RASMUS, PLLC, 6800 France Avenue South, Suite 190, Edina, MN 55435, for plaintiffs.

Scott H. Ikeda, Assistant Attorney General, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1100, St. Paul, MN 55101, for defendants Lucinda E. Jesson and Lori Swanson.

Todd R. Matha, Solicitor General of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Barbara Cole, Senior Deputy Solicitor General of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, MILLE LACS BAND OF OJIBWE OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL, 43408 Oodena Drive, Onamia, MN 56359, for defendant Samuel Moose.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiffs John Doe and Jane Doe[1] bring this constitutional challenge individually and on behalf of their son, Baby Doe, against Lucinda Jesson as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services ("the Commissioner"), Lori Swanson as Minnesota Attorney General ("the Attorney General") (together, "state Defendants"), and Samuel Moose as Commissioner of Health and Human Services for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe ("Commissioner Moose"). Plaintiffs argue that the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act ("MIFPA") provision requiring notice to a tribe of a voluntary adoption proceeding involving an Indian child violates the parents' due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. This matter is now before the Court on the Plaintiffs' Motion to Proceed under Pseudonyms and Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. Because the Court concludes that there is no threat of irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs of complying with MIFPA's notice requirements, the Court will deny the preliminary injunction.

BACKGROUND

I. THE PLAINTIFFS AND BABY DOE ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS

Baby Doe was born to biological parents John and Jane Doe in Minneapolis in April 2015. (Verified Compl. for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief ("Compl.") ¶ 28, June 3, 2015, Docket No. 1.) John and Jane Doe are both enrolled members of Indian tribes. ( Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) They are not domiciled within, nor do they reside on, an Indian reservation. ( Id. ) John and Jane Doe are not married, but they have been a couple continuously living together since 2003. ( Id. ¶ 29.) Baby Doe is not currently an enrolled member of an Indian tribe, but Jane Doe believes he is eligible for membership in the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe - of which she is a member - because she has given birth to other children (fathered by John Doe) who are enrolled in the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. ( Id. ¶ 5.)

John and Jane Doe have voluntarily decided that adoption is in the best interests of Baby Doe, "in light of their personal circumstances." ( Id. ¶ 30.) They have chosen to use a private adoption agency ("Adoption Agency") that offers private direct placement, allowing John and Jane Doe to select Baby Doe's adoptive parents ("the Adoptive Parents"). ( Id. ¶ 31.) The Adoptive Parents are not of Indian descent. ( Id. ¶ 34.) They have made an open adoption plan with John and Jane Doe, however, to enable Baby Doe to stay connected to his Indian heritage. ( Id. ¶ 35.) The open adoption plan would allow the Adoptive Parents and John and Jane Doe to share pictures and text messages. ( Id. ) It would also allow John and Jane Doe to meet with Baby Doe occasionally. ( Id. ) The Adoptive Parents have already adopted another son, and they used a similar open arrangement with that child's parents. ( Id. ¶¶ 34-35.)

On May 8, 2015, John and Jane Doe placed Baby Doe with the Adoptive Parents for eventual adoption. ( Id. ¶ 41.) The placement was made pursuant to a Hennepin County Juvenile Court preadoptive custody order. ( Id. ) The adoption proceeding is ongoing. The next step is for John and Jane Doe to consent to the adoption in state court. ( Id. ) If they fail to consent within 60 days of the placement - that is, if they do not consent by July 8, 2015 - the state court must refer the matter to the Hennepin County child protection agency to determine whether John and Jane Doe have abandoned Baby Doe and therefore should have their parental rights terminated. ( Id. ); Minn. Stat. § 259.47, subd. 8. John and Jane Doe have not yet given their consent, due to what they argue are unconstitutional tribal notification requirements.

II. MINNESOTA INDIAN FAMILY PRESERVATION ACT

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 ("ICWA") was passed by Congress to "protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families." 25 U.S.C. § 1902. One critical provision of ICWA is its requirement that:

In any involuntary proceeding in a State court, where the court knows or has reason to know that an Indian child is involved, the party seeking the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child shall notify the parent or Indian custodian and the Indian child's tribe, by registered mail with ...

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