Veronica's birth mother files injunction on ICWA

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV/AP) - The biological mother of a girl at the center of a South Carolina adoption dispute has sued the federal government over a law governing the placement of Indian children.

Christinna Maldonado on Wednesday sued U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking a declaration that parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act are unconstitutional.

The injunction seeks to stop the usage the named challenged provisions of ICWA to protect a birth mother's right to protect her child.

Maldonado's says the law considers race in determining with whom a child should live and therefore violates equal protection provisions.

Maldonado is joined in the case by a named Minnesota mother and 10 Janes Does who are unwed non-Indian birth mothers of Indian children based on the interpretation of ICWA.{}

"Because the unwed biological fathers of such children have at least on Native American ancestor and have registered with a federally recognized Indian tribe," Maldonado's suit says the tribe can claim rights that would not otherwise exist.

In all of the cases, the women have chosen adoptive parents who are not favored under ICWA's standard.

A James Island couple has been trying to adopt Maldonado's now-3-year-old daughter since the girl's birth. Veronica lived with them for two years but has been with her biological father since a 2011 ruling giving him preference because of his Cherokee heritage.

South Carolina's highest court ruled last week that she should be returned to the adoptive couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. On Wednesday, the court rejected Brown and the Cherokee Nation's request to rehear the case.

The court's order says in taking into consideration Veronica's best interests, it is important to start the transition process as quickly as possible, again stating that the birth father's rights had been terminated.

"We remain fully aware of the important and time-sensitive interests at stake. More to the point, we are cognizant that the paramount consideration is the best interest and welfare of [Veronica]," the order reads. "While this court was in error concerning the applicability of ICWA, we have consistently held that under state law, the Birth Father's parental rights would be terminated."

Brown and the Cherokee Nation claimed earlier this week that temporary custody had been granted to Brown's family, a decision that was reached hours before the state's Supreme Court ordered the Capobianco adoption finalized.

In the earlier filing, Brown claimed a series of new issues should prevent the court from making a decision, especially one in favor of the James Island couple. That complaint was fully rejected by the courts.{}

The court order goes on to say that it believe the Capobiancos are going to raise Veronica to be aware of her Native American heritage and serve her best interests, calling the transition plan the couple has offered a thoughtful direction to proceed.

"It is our fervent hope that the parties will work together in good faith and place the best interest and welfare of [Veronica] above their own desires," the order reads. "This case has reached finality, in this unchallenged forum and jurisdiction. That finality should be honored."

The Cherokee Nation said it was "deeply disappointed" in the Supreme Court's decision.


The Associated Press' Meg Kinnard provided information in this story. Kinnard can be reached at