South Dakota and Pennington County officials must make changes in their handling of temporary custody hearings involving Native American children as the result of judgments issued Thursday by the U.S. District Court.
The suit, filed in 2013 by Native American parents and the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes, claimed that procedures in the state’s so-called 48-hour hearings violated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The defendants are the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office, the state Department of Social Services and the 7th Circuit Court.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Dana Hanna, said the decision by Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken will “radically and fundamentally” change the way the hearings are being conducted, adding that the changes are supposed to take effect immediately.
In March 2015, Viken found that local court procedures violated Native American rights by not advising parents they had a right to contest the state’s petition for temporary custody and by not requiring the state to present live sworn testimony from a witness.
Viken said in a previous hearing that the case could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court because of the importance of the issues involved.