SC Supreme Court denies rehearing in Veronica adoption

Veronica and Dusten Brown before he shipped out to training. (Source: Cherokee Nation)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Dusten Brown's request for a rehearing in the adoption of his biological daughter, Veronica.

That means Veronica's adoption to Matt and Melanie Capobianco will be finalized; the timeline will be set by the Charleston County Family Court.

"We are overjoyed. The order from the SC Supreme Court speaks for itself. It is what we have been waiting on for months. We are anxious to see our daughter and have her home," the Capobiancos said in a statement Wednesday evening.

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.

"It is a travesty that this court would refuse to hold a hearing to determine what is in this Cherokee child's best interests, and summarily move to terminate this fit and loving father's parental rights with no new evidence presented in nearly two years," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. "It is heartbreaking that Veronica Brown's rights are being ignored. We have, and always will, stand steadfast with the Brown family in their continued fight to raise this child with her biological family. We ask for your prayers as the Brown family continues this difficult journey."

Now the National Congress of American Indians is pushing ahead with a civil rights lawsuit to stop the adoption and transfer of Veronica to the Capobiancos.

"This is an alarming failure of the judicial system, and it represents a grave threat to all children in adoption proceedings, but most notably Native American children, who deserve all the legal protections, afforded any child in this nation," said Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the national congress. "Together with the Native American Rights Fund and the National Indian Child Welfare Association we are preparing to file litigation in order to protect Veronica's civil rights."

Pata goes on to say that she thinks the state Supreme Court showed "willful disregard" in ruling that Brown had not been actively involved in Veronica's life.

A representative with the National Indian Child Welfare Association said the organization was waiting to see what the family court decides, but was willing to push forward to "protect Veronica's civil rights."

An attorney representing Brown said he was disappointed in the decision, saying the court has routinely failed to take Veronica's best interests into account. He went on to say Brown's legal team would continue to take every legal step possible to allow him to raise his daughter.

But it appears that after more than 18 months, Veronica will be coming home to James Island.

On Monday, several American Indian groups said they were preparing to sue over the court's decision to allow the adoption of a girl of Cherokee heritage by a Charleston-area couple.

The Native American Rights Fund, National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Child Welfare Association said Monday they want to try to protect the best interests of the now-3-year-old Veronica.

"When it comes to adoption proceedings, every court in this country has a legal obligation to put the best interests of a child first - every time, no matter the race of the child. This did not happen here. The South Carolina Court's order represents a perilous prospect for not only Veronica, but any child involved in a custody proceeding in this country," said Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of NCAI.{} "In a rush to judgment, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered Veronica to be removed from her biological father without any consideration for her best interests.{} The decision contributes to the long and sordid history of Native American children being removed from their families without any consideration of their best interests. The National Congress of American Indians refuses to stand by as the rights of this child are violated."

With the backing of the U.S. Supreme Court, the South Carolina Supreme Court last week ordered a Family Court to finalize Veronica's adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

The girl has been living in Oklahoma since 2011 when South Carolina justices said a federal law favored her being raised by her biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation.

Her father has been pursuing custody of Veronica in Oklahoma.

The girl's birth mother, Christinna Maldonado, called for an end to the legal wrangling.

"Enough is enough. It is time for everyone in Oklahoma to sit down and act like adults and figure out the best way to transition Veronica back to her home on James Island," Maldonado said.