by Sam Spence
In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a ruling in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, reversing the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision, a ruling favorable for adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island. The "Baby Veronica" case, which has captured national attention since it was argued in April, centers around the now three-and-a-half-year old toddler, her birth father, and the Capobiancos, who originally tried to adopt Veronica as a newborn in 2009. The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered her returned to her birth father in late 2011 after he challenged the adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, rules that assertions made by the South Carolina Supreme Court don't apply in the specific case of Adoptive Couple, saying that action by the S.C. court that resulted in Veronica being "taken, at the age of 27 months, from the only parents she had ever known" under the federal ICWA, "do not demand this result."
Writing for the Court, Alito says examination of the case using other provisions of the ICWA were inapplicable, and that an argument that the Capobianco's adoption was an attempt to "breakup" her birth father Dusten Brown's Native American family (as defined by the ICWA) is insubstantial since Brown "abandoned" Veronica before her birth.
It's not immediately clear what's next for Veronica, who is living with her father in Oklahoma, though in her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor notes that Veronica's return is "not foreordained, of course." She continues, "But it can be said with certainty that the anguish this case has caused will only be compounded by today's decision."
We'll have more on the case as more details are available.