Glenn Smith, The Post and Courier Discussion »
When Matt and Melanie Capobianco watched the birth of their adoptive daughter in 2009, they had no idea their love for this little girl would put them at the center of a decades-old national debate with racial, cultural and political overtones.
But that's exactly where the James Island couple have found themselves after the US Supreme Court agreed this month to take up their long-running custody battle with 3 year old Veronica's biological father, Dusten Brown, a Cherokee Indian.
The decision, which surprised many legal scholars, marks the first time in more than two decades that the high court has taken up a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 federal law aimed at preserving American Indian families, tribes and their heritage.
Among other things, the act gives American Indian parents preference in custody disputes involving Native American children.
South Carolina courts cited the act in forcing the Capobiancos in late 2011 to turn over Veronica to Brown, who was a stranger to the child.
He returned home to Oklahoma with Veronica, and the Capobiancos haven't seen her since.
Oral arguments are expected as soon as April, and the case is being closely watched by a variety of groups with a stake in its outcome tribal groups, adoption agencies and attorneys, Indian law and constitutional-rights experts. It has the potential to affect the way thousands of adoptions are handled each year and alter the playing field for Native American groups from coast-to-coast.
Predicting the way the high court will rule is always a dicey proposition. But the speed with which the court grabbed the case leads many observers to suspect that the justices intend to make a bold statement on this contentious subject. After all, the high court hears only about 1 percent of the roughly 10,000 cases submitted for its consideration each year.
But the justices' aim remains a mystery. Read More »
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posted January 18, 2013 6:20 am est