Tribal adoption case's impact could be far-reaching
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Thursday, April 19, 2012
4/19/12 at 4:43 AM
The hearing was scheduled to last 35 minutes, but the oral arguments went on for an hour and a half at the South Carolina Supreme Court.
With the public barred from attending, and both sides under a strict gag order, nobody who was in the room Tuesday can talk about what happened.
But outside the courthouse, observers assumed that the length of the hearing meant the justices had asked a lot of questions - a sign of how complex the "Baby Veronica" case has become.
A couple from James Island, S.C., a suburb of Charleston, adopted Veronica in 2009 from an Oklahoma mother.
The birth father, however, won a court order to have the child returned to Oklahoma, where she now lives with him in Nowata.
The adoptive parents want the state Supreme Court to require Veronica to be brought back to South Carolina.
"We only want what's best for her," said Jessica Munday, a family friend who's serving as an unofficial spokeswoman for the adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.
The case could have national ramifications because it revolves around the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that was meant to help keep Indian children within a tribe.
The Cherokee Nation participated in this week's hearing in South Carolina, but tribal officials fall under the gag order and won't comment on the case.
The adoptive parents deny that the tribe has any interest in the child, who is now 2.
"She's more Latino than anything else," Munday said, describing Veronica as "multiracial."
The family stayed in touch with the birth mother and encouraged her to have a relationship with Veronica, Munday said, hinting that a similar arrangement might be possible with the father.
"Everyone who loves her should have a relationship with her," she said.
The state Supreme Court promised to expedite the case, with a decision expected within 30 days.
About 20 people rallied on the courthouse steps Tuesday to support the family.
Suggesting that the case could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, Munday told the protesters not to throw away their placards.
"Keep them," she said, "in case we need to go to Washington, D.C."
Original Print Headline: Impact of tribal adoption case could be far-reaching
Michael Overall 918-581-8383
Escorted by attorney Shannon Jones, Dusten Brown of Nowata carries his biological daughter, Veronica, after taking custody of her from her adoptive parents Dec. 31 in Charleston, S.C. GRACE BEAHM/The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
Matt and Melanie Capobianco say goodbye to their adoptive daughter, Veronica, before handing her over to her biological father in December. GRACE BEAHM/The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier