Circuit judges accused of ignoring federal judge's order in suit over Native children custody hearings

2014-03-19T05:30:00Z 2014-08-17T18:10:07Z Circuit judges accused of ignoring federal judge's order in suit over Native children custody hearingsAndrea J. Cook Journal staff Rapid City Journal
March 19, 2014 5:30 am  • 

A federal judge has given four Seventh Circuit judges and one former circuit judge two weeks to either abide by his orders or explain why they won't order transcripts of custody hearings involving Native American children.

One year ago, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and three Native American parents filed a federal lawsuit challenging the procedures state officials use when removing children from their homes.

The lawsuit claims courts and Department of Social Service officials ignore the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by giving parents a superficial hearing before taking children from the home for 60 days.

Seventh Circuit judges Wally Eklund, Robert Mandel, Craig Pfeifle and Thomas Trimble, along with former judge Mary Thorstenson have refused to sign orders authorizing transcripts of certain hearings that Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken has said the plaintiffs can have to pursue their case.

Presiding Seventh Circuit Judge Jeff Davis has signed the order authorizing transcripts of hearings he supervised. But the attorney representing the other judges has said his clients will not sign orders releasing transcripts of their hearings, according to the court documents.

On Monday, the plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion asking Viken to compel the judges or Davis to sign the transcript orders. Davis has refused to sign the transcript orders for the other judges, including Thorstenson, who left the bench a year ago. 

Viken responded to the motion to compel by ordering the defendants to respond to the motion by March 28. Viken also gave the judges the same deadline to explain their reasons for not signing the orders.

In January, Viken rejected a defense request to dismiss the lawsuit.

At that time, Viken ordered the Seventh Circuit Court to provide a list of 48-hour ICWA hearings held since January 2010. Viken authorized the production of transcripts from every third 48-hour hearing on that list, according to court documents filed Monday.

In his January order, Viken stated that the process of obtaining the transcripts should be expedited to accommodate plaintiffs' anticipated motion for preliminary injunction.

Viken acknowledged then that the tribes and parents were likely to ask him for a preliminary injunction preventing the defendants from continuing their current practices. Therefore, it was important that discovery proceed and the transcripts be provided.

Contact Andrea J. Cook at 394-8423 or

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(5) Comments

  1. bigblue
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    bigblue - March 23, 2014 10:02 am
    It is so sad that when the courts have to step in but this is not r way of life. It could take years which it is to get children back but in the mean time the children issues are growing bigger & bigger. I wanted to walk the Red Road for myself & children because this unfairness has been going on for decades & we all know this. My biggest fear was having r children in this system so I had this fear so if they said walk like a duck , I did! talk like a duck, I did! That is so sad cause we learn all this in boarding school, in prison, & my mother use to work for social service & say don't ever get involved with the state because once they have your name in the system you will not have no freedom. You have to walk & talk like a duck. So I behaved because that is just another way of being control by them. So Sad still in 2014.
  2. Roger Cornelius
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    Roger Cornelius - March 22, 2014 11:37 am
    What are these judges hiding,
    What are they protecting and why
  3. rezbound
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    rezbound - March 21, 2014 9:46 pm
    If the judges sign their name it will make South Dakota look bad and the DSS will lose thier cash cow of taking Native Kids away AND PLACING THEM IN FOSTER HOMES. it will probably shut down DSS for good. Guilty Judges in SOUTH DAKOTA. THIS WILL PROBABLY NOT MAKE THE COMMENT SECTION. HERE IS TO WISHING. DID YOU KNOW NATIVE CHILDREN MAKE ALOT OF MONEY FOR SOUTH DAKOTA AND THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES. SAD BUT TRUE.
  4. fcarlson21
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    fcarlson21 - March 19, 2014 4:58 pm
    hold those judges in contempt of a court order and lock them up. it's what they do when you don't comply they are not above the law
  5. SharpShtik
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    SharpShtik - March 19, 2014 7:32 am
    SD state court, including 7th circuit and supreme court, are run by incompetent attorneys. SD's law school has one of the lowest entry qualifications in the nation and there is little competition to be a judge. As a result, with few exceptions, SD citizens suffer the worst of the worst attorneys running state court. Just what we need, more lawless politicians.
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