Rule of Law

RELEASE: Justices Reject Tenth Amendment Challenges to ICWA and Confirm Supremacy of Federal Law

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s announcement of its decision this morning in Haaland v. Brackeen and consolidated cases in which the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 1978 law passed to prevent state courts from unnecessarily separating Indian families and communities using state adoption and foster care systems, Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) Appellate Counsel Smita Ghosh issued the following reaction:

In a victory for tribal sovereignty, the Supreme Court rejected a broad set of constitutional challenges to ICWA.  Among other things, the Court held that the law does not violate the Supreme Court’s anti-commandeering doctrine.  Consistent with the constitutional history laid out in CAC’s amicus brief in the case, the Court rejected the argument that Congress runs afoul of an anti-commandeering prohibition when it makes rules that apply in state courts, as ICWA’s rules do.  “This argument,” Justice Barrett explained, “runs headlong into the Constitution.”

The Court also rejected the challengers’ argument that ICWA’s recordkeeping provisions violate the Tenth Amendment.  Echoing CAC’s brief, the Court held that these requirements related to state court proceedings are entirely consistent with the kinds of obligations that Congress has imposed on state actors since the Founding.

Significantly, today’s decision preserves ICWA, which plays an important role in protecting tribal citizenship.  It does something else important as well: it ensures that Congress has the power to create standards that state courts must follow, consistent with the constitutional system that the Framers put in place.



Case page in Haaland v. Brackeen:


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