Haaland v. Brackeen (U.S. Supreme Court, June 15, 2023): In Haaland v. Brackeen, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), finding that ICWA’s preference in favor of placing foster or adoptive Native children with Native families is constitutional. Read the full Opinion here.
ICWA was passed in 1978 in response to extensive history of the federal government and private adoption agencies placing Native American and Alaska Native children outside their communities, harming the children and Tribes. ICWA requires that preference be given to Native families when placing Native children in foster care or in the adoption system. The Court addressed whether ICWA’s preference, applicable in state courts, improperly invades states’ traditional powers in family law matters. Finding Congress’ authority on Tribal issues broad and exclusive, the Court found that ICWA lawfully supersedes state family law. The Court also rejected the argument that ICWA violates anti-commandeering principles that prohibit the federal government from requiring states to enforce federal law, finding that ICWA provisions apply to private agencies and government entities and that the Constitution allows Congress to assign state courts certain tasks. The Court did not address whether ICWA’s preferences violate equal protection or whether Congress improperly delegated legislative power to tribes because neither of the parties had standing to raise those issues. Read the full Opinion here.