RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A federal appeals court has overturned an earlier ruling that said a South Dakota county must give Native American parents more rights during initial hearings of child-removal cases.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals focused on jurisdictional issues in its Friday ruling, saying the Pennington County case is a state issue and shouldn't have gone to federal court, The Rapid City Journal reported.
The case stems from a 2013 lawsuit filed by three parents who challenged the practices of the state's 7th Judicial Circuit, the Pennington County State's Attorney Office and the state Department of Social Services during temporary custody hearings. The lawsuit alleges the hearings, under the U.S. Indian Child Welfare Act, are too brief and violate parents' constitutional rights.
The chief U.S. district judge for South Dakota, Jeffrey Viken, sided with the parents in rulings in 2015 and 2016. He ordered changes to give parents more rights at those initial hearings, which are required to be held within 48 hours of a child's removal from the home to decide whether the child should be returned to the home or be placed in the custody of the state Department of Social Services. Parents previously weren't guaranteed legal protections until a later stage in the process.
The 8th Circuit ruling didn't address the fairness of the child-removal hearings. The judges instead argued that a federal court ruling on the state's procedures interferes with the state's judicial system.
Dana Hanna, a lawyer for the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes, which are working on behalf of the parents, said she plans to ask the federal appeals court to rehear the case. If that fails, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.
“We are convinced, we strongly believe that the panel's decision was wrong,'' she said.
State Department of Social Services Secretary Lynne Valenti said she's happy with the ruling.
“DSS has maintained from the beginning the (federal) district court should have abstained from exercising jurisdiction in this case, and we are pleased that our position prevailed at the Eighth Circuit,'' she said in a press release.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez is facing a challenge in his bid for the tribe's top elected post.
One of Nez's primary election opponents, Vincent Yazzie, alleges Nez failed to disclose a misdemeanor conviction for drunken driving in 2002. Yazzie argues in a grievance filed with the tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals that Nez should be disqualified from the presidential race.
Nez's campaign acknowledged the conviction Thursday but said Yazzie is wrong in his interpretation and it will file a motion to dismiss the complaint.
“We'll argue that he's not in any violation,'' said campaign manager Clara Pratte. “It seems pretty frivolous. The law is clear.''
Tribal law prohibits Navajos from seeking the presidency or vice presidency if they've been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors within the past five years. Nez pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge in Flagstaff Municipal Court in 2002 and was ordered to take substance abuse classes, according to court records. An extreme drunken driving charge was dismissed.
Pratte said Nez, 43, has not tried to hide his past from the public and uses it as a teaching point, particularly with youth, in overcoming struggles.
The message he sends is “no one is disposable, and mistakes don't define a person,'' she said.
Yazzie has not responded to messages seeking comment but wrote in the complaint that Nez falsified his application, must receive mandatory treatment and be removed as a presidential candidate.
The tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals has set a Sept. 26 hearing.
Nez and former two-term Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. beat out a record number of presidential hopefuls to advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
Another grievance Yazzie filed challenging Shirley on term limits was dismissed Wednesday. Hearing officer Joe Aguirre said the grievance was untimely and Yazzie did not state a violation of the election code.
Shirley filed to run for a third consecutive term in 2010. The tribe's Supreme Court upheld his disqualification, saying Navajos can serve no more than two terms consecutively as president but can sit out a term and run again.
Shirley entered the race again in 2014 but lost to current President Russell Begaye.