United States District Court, D. Minnesota
JANE DOE and JOHN DOE, individually, and on behalf of Baby Doe, Plaintiffs,
EMILY JOHNSON PIPER, in her official capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and LORI SWANSON, in her official capacity as Minnesota Attorney General, Defendants.
JEFFREY S. STORMS, ANDREW M. IRLBECK, MARK D. FIDDLER, AND R.
DANIEL RASMUS, FOR PLAINTIFFS.
H. IKEDA AND AARON WINTER, ASSISTANT ATTORNEYS GENERAL, FOR
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Jane and John Doe (the “Does”) brought this
action seeking injunctive relief and a declaration that the
portions of the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act
(“MIFPA”), Minn. Stat. §§
260.751-260.835, that require notice to Indian tribes for any
voluntary adoption involving an “Indian child”
and provide relevant Indian tribes a right of intervention
are unconstitutional. The remaining defendants in this case
are the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human
Resources, Emily Johnson Piper, and the Minnesota Attorney
General, Lori Swanson (collectively,
“Defendants”). Both sides move for summary
judgment. While this case presents interesting and unclear
questions of constitutional law, the Court finds the
Does' action is now moot, and therefore, the Court must
grant Defendants' motion and deny the Does' motion.
Does challenge several adoption procedures codified in MIFPA.
The purposes of [MIFPA] are to (1) protect the long-term
interests, as defined by the tribes, of Indian children,
their families as defined by law or custom, and the
child's tribe; and (2) preserve the Indian family and
tribal identity, including an understanding that Indian
children are damaged if family and child tribal identity and
contact are denied.
Minn. Stat. § 260.753. MIFPA is broader than its federal
counterpart - the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978
(“ICWA”) - which similarly seeks to address the
concern “that an alarmingly high percentage of Indian
families [have been] broken up by the removal, often
unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public
and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage
of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive
homes and institutions.” 25 U.S.C. § 1901(4);
see also Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S.Ct.
2552, 2557 (2013) (discussing the motivation for ICWA).
ICWA and MIFPA establish procedures for Indian tribes to push
state courts to place Indian children with Indian families
when those children are put up for adoption. The statutes
establish preferences for placing Indian children with Indian
families absent a showing of good cause justifying action to
the contrary. 25 U.S.C. § 1915(a); Minn. Stat. §
260.771, subd. 7. Both statutes also require notice to tribes
and allow for the tribes' intervention in proceedings
under certain circumstances. See 25 U.S.C. §
1912(a); Minn. Stat. § 260.761, subds. 2-3, 6.
ICWA's adoption provision applies only to involuntary
adoption proceedings. See 25 U.S.C. § 1912(a);
Adoptive Couple, 133 S.Ct. at 2557 (discussing
ICWA's governance of “involuntary termination of
parental rights”). MIFPA's adoption provisions
apply more broadly, encouraging placement of Indian children
with Indian parents in voluntary as well as involuntary
adoptions. Compare 25 U.S.C. § 1912
(involuntary proceedings only), with Minn. Stat.
§ 260.761, subd. 3 (voluntary proceedings).
definition of “Indian child” is also broader than
ICWA's. MIFPA defines “Indian child” as any
“unmarried person who is under age 18” who is
either “(1) a member of an Indian tribe; or (2)
eligible for membership in an Indian tribe.” Minn.
Stat. § 260.755, subd. 8 (emphasis added). In contrast,
ICWA defines “Indian child” as “any
unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a)
a member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership
in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of
an Indian tribe.” 25 U.S.C. § 1903(4) (emphasis
added). The Does note that at least three Indian tribes allow
for membership on the grounds of blood quantum or
lineage. Thus, based on a child's ancestry
alone, MIFPA could extend to the children of non-members of
tribes that rely solely on blood quantum for
Does challenge two particular MIFPA provisions. First, the
Does challenge the “notice” provision, under
which “a local social services agency, private
child-placing agency, petitioner in the adoption, or any
other party” must notify the applicable “tribal
social services agency” if the agency or person
“has reason to believe that a child who is the subject
of an adoptive or preadoptive placement proceeding is or may
be an ‘Indian child'” under the statute.
Minn. Stat. § 260.761, subd. 3. Second, the
Does challenge the “intervention” provision,
which provides an Indian child's tribe the right to
intervene at any point in adoption proceedings involving the
child. Id., subd. 6.
THE DOES' ADOPTION ...