Wednesday, August 9, 2006
The Alaska Supreme Court has held that the state''s one-year statute of limitations applies for claims brought under § 1914 of the Indian Child Welfare Act to challenge adoptions. Congress did not include a generally applicable statute of limitations in ICWA. It specified a two-year statute of limitations for one class of ICWA claims, those brought under § 1913(d) (consent procured by fraud or duress). In this case of first impression, the court rejected Father's argument that the silence in the federal statute should be read to indicate that no statute of limitations applied to his § 1914 ICWA challenge. The court disagreed, finding that, while no case has be decided that determined whether a state statute of limitations should apply in the absence of a limitations period in the federal statute, in interpreting many other federal statutes, courts regularly borrow state statutes of limitations.
ICWA is remedial legislation and must be liberally construed in favor of Indians, but we do not think that an interpretation of ICWA that would completely disregard Indian children's interests in finality and stability would be consistent with Congress's intent in enacting the statute. We therefore hold that Alaska's one-year statute of limitations provides an appropriate balance between the important federal rights of Indian tribes and families and the best interests of adopted children.
In the Matter of Adoption of Erin G., 2006 Alas. LEXIS 117 (August 4, 2006) bgf
August 4, 2006, Decided