Moving to put an early end to “this emotionally charged case,” the South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered into effect a decision awarding full legal custody of the child known as “Baby Veronica” to a couple in that state, rejecting further challenges by the child’s father in Oklahoma.  While the father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, has been attempting in state court and in a tribal court to keep the child in his family, those courts have not yet reacted.

The father has the option of returning to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he lost last month on his legal claims, and could ask the Justices in the meantime to delay the turnover of the child to the South Carolina couple.   The child will be four years old in September.  The adopting couple has proposed a “transition plan” that will mean the child would not begin to live with them for a short period.

The state court declared that “nothing further” remains to be decided, and so it ordered a family court in the state to act “forthwith” to approve the adoption of the child by Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who live near Charleston.  It refused to delay the case any further, denying a postponement request by the father — Dusten Brown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, supported by the Cherokee tribe.

“It is our fervent hope,” the state court commented, “that the parties will work together in good faith and place the best interest and welfare of Baby Girl above their own desires.  This emotionally charged case was fully litigated in the South Carolina courts and the United States Supreme Court.   This case has reached finality….That finality should be honored.”

Although all five members of the state’s highest court agreed that the birth father’s rights as a parent should be terminated, it divided by a three-to-two vote on the mandate for the family court to make the adoption final without further proceedings.  The two dissenting judges on that point also said they would have approved a delay of the case while the family court made a final decision on custody.

The court said that the adopting couple had said throughout the legal dispute that they intended to raise the child “in a manner that maintains a meaningful connectedness to her Native American heritage.”

It praised the couple for submitting a “thoughtful transition plan.”   The brief opinion did not spell out the terms of that plan, but it is understood that the Capobiancos will go to Oklahoma to spend perhaps up to two weeks, during which time they will work with a counselor to try to arrange for the child’s transition into their family.   The state Supreme Court said it would leave to the family court whether to approve the specifics of that plan.

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Featured

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, “Baby Veronica” adoption finalized, SCOTUSblog (Jul. 24, 2013, 4:22 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/07/baby-veronica-adoption-finalized/