Capobiancos' attorneys file $1 million suit against Cherokee Nation
NOWATA COUNTY, Okla. (WCIV) -- It's been about two months since Matt and Melanie took custody of their adopted daughter, and now their attorneys have filed a $1 million dollar lawsuit seeking legal fees from Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation.
The lawsuit was filed last week in Nowata County and seeks $1,028,796.50 in attorneys fees and an additional $6,535.27 in other costs, according to court documents. The money would be split between the four law firms that handled the custody battle that crossed state lines and multiple jurisdictions.
Lori Alvino McGill, Veronica's birth mother's attorney, said the attorneys are seeking fees for the time the Capobiancos spent fighting Brown in court after South Carolina ordered the adoption to be finalized.
The filing is in addition to a contempt proceedings in South Carolina in which an unspecified amount of damages is being sought.
The court records show that attorneys working for the Capobiancos logged more than 2,000 hours and charged $480 per hour.
The Capobiancos spent nearly two months in Oklahoma after being granted custody by South Carolina courts, but attorneys for the Cherokee Nation and Brown, Veronica's biological father, fought the order to hand over the 4-year-old with one filing after another in district courts and the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Ultimately, the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted a stay stopping the handover of Veronica, marking the second change of custody in the young girl's life.
The first handover came nearly two years earlier, in December 2011, when the Capobiancos handed Veronica to Brown.
That handover sparked a custody battle that pushed the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who opined that the federal Indian Child Welfare Act did not apply because Brown did not have custody of Veronica at the time of her birth.
Brown had argued that the federal law took precedence as it strived to keep families of Native American heritage together. Veronica is roughly 2 percent Cherokee, according to court documents.
However, with ICWA tossed out, Brown's primary challenge of the Capobiancos' adoption was stripped out from under him. As a result, the state of South Carolina reinstated the adoption and awarded Veronica back to her James Island family.
The decision was appealed in Oklahoma, but Brown finally gave up custody in September.
Since then, the Capobiancos made a brief taped appearance on Dr. Phil, saying Veronica was doing well and remembering a lot of her former life on James Island. They added the Browns still had some communication with Veronica, but did not say what agreement the two sides had reached.
Attorneys from both sides have not commented on the latest filing.