We’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing the case in Pennington County. The defendants filed six motions this week, continuing the fight the decision: now, read them yourself.
As ACLU plaintiff’s attorney Stephan Pevar wrote about the case:
Over the last four years alone, more than 500 Indian children were forcibly removed from their homes by state officials in Pennington County, South Dakota, which then subjected their parents to child-custody hearings that violated federal law.
In these hearings, some of which lasted no more than 60 seconds, the presiding state court judge never advised parents they had a right to challenge the petition against them, never gave the parents an opportunity to call witnesses, never required the state to present evidence from a live witness, and never gave the parents a chance to testify on their behalf. All of the cards were stacked against the parents in these proceedings and the parents lost 100 percent of the time.
That’s right, you didn’t misread that. The state won 100 percent of the time, which isn’t surprising given that only the state was allowed to present any evidence and all of that evidence was submitted secretly to the judge. But two South Dakota Indian tribes — the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe — and three Indian parents fought back.
In March 2013, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of those two tribes and on behalf of all Indian parents in Pennington County against four state officials — the presiding state court judge, the director of the South Dakota Department of Social Services, the director of Child Protection Services, and the state attorney for Pennington County — for violating the federal rights of Indian parents.
You’ll see most of the defenses revolve around the question of whether the defendants are ‘final policymakers.’
The underlying facts still aren’t in dispute and the state of South Dakota doesn’t seem to have any intent to resolve the situation voluntarily.