'Intense': Family describes Supreme Court arguments
WASHINGTON (WCIV) - The adoptive parents of a little girl from the Lowcountry said Tuesday afternoon the arguments heard by the Supreme Court were intense. They said while there was plenty of debate, it was tough to tell where the justices stood.
Before the nine justices, Lisa Blatt argued for Matt andMelanie Capobianco, the Charleston couple who tried to adopt baby Veronica.
Blatt and fellow attorney Paul Clement questioned the validity of the Indian Child Welfare Act and whether Dusten Brown, Veronica's birth father, should be given permanent parental custody.
"Given the consequences for the child are so dramatic, that she went from a preceding that was supposed the be focused on her and her interests, and instead because of a federal statute, had something focused only on her birth father," said Clement.
Blatt pleaded with the justices to acknowledge that South Carolina law should have been upheld in the state court hearing.
If that had been the case, Blatt said Brown should not have been considered Veronica's father because he did not support her mother during or after the pregnancy. That would have allowed Veronica to stay with theCapobiancos.
After the hearing, Blatt talked about her interaction with the justices.
"They seemed open, very engaged to hear the arguments," she said. "I'm pleased about that."
Attorneys from the Cherokee Nation argued Brown's natural parental rights should not be terminated. They claim Brown was a loving father to the three-year-old and he should raise her.
"It has always been the rule that a natural parent who is a fit parent should get custody if he or she wants it," said Charles Rothfield.
The Tribal Council issued a statement Tuesday night, saying they thought the Supreme Court would rule in favor of upholding the existing law.
"NCAI is optimistic as a result of today's oral arguments and we believe the U.S. Supreme Court will rule to keep the Brown family together and uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), just as the South Carolina Supreme Court did," said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI. "We will remain vigilant and ensure that the general public, the media, and Indian Country is provided with the accurate facts in this case," continued Keel. "Dusten Brown is a loving father who has at all times done whatever he could to fight for the right to raise his daughter. The attempted adoption was based on misleading information provided by adoption attorneys and was for that reason rejected by multiple South Carolina courts. And the Indian Child Welfare Act -- which was supported in briefs filed by the United States government and 19 states, among many others -- must be upheld and enforced."
While sometimes marked by heated exchanges, the arguments ended an hour after they began.
The decision made in the High Court will likely impact all adoption and custody cases moving forward.
The ruling will come sometime in June. Until then, both sides will have to wait and hope for some long-awaited answers.