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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Issues Decision in Favor of State

South Dakota Department of Social Services
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, SD 57501

For Immediate Release: Monday, Sept. 17, 2018
Media Contact:  Tia Kafka, 605-773-3165

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Issues Decision in Favor of State  

PIERRE, S.D. – The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rendered an opinion in favor of The Department of Social Services (DSS) and other state defendants Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. The opinion overturns the district court’s prior orders which granted partial summary judgment and declaratory and injunctive relief for plaintiffs in a case that challenged state court proceedings in 48-hour custody hearings involving temporary removal of Indian children due to emergency circumstances. The decision sends the case back to the district court with instructions to dismiss the claims that give rise to the orders.

“Although this is an ongoing case, the department is pleased with the decision issued by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals,” said state Department of Social Services Secretary Lynne Valenti.

In March 2013, two tribal members, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe filed a class-action lawsuit against DSS and various other South Dakota officials challenging the state’s removal procedures of Indian children in abuse and neglect situations. DSS and other state defendants moved to dismiss the complaint arguing among other things that the district court was required to abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the long-standing principle that federal courts should not interfere with state courts. However, the district court denied this motion and granted partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and also entered a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction in December 2016. The Court of Appeals held that state procedures provide an adequate remedy for plaintiffs’ allegations.

“DSS has maintained from the beginning the district court should have abstained from exercising jurisdiction in this case, and we are pleased that our position prevailed at the Eighth Circuit,” said Valenti. “We have devoted significant resources to defending this litigation and now look forward to rededicating resources to our mission and serving South Dakota families.”

DSS strives to keep families safe, strong and together. The department provides programs and services for many South Dakota citizens and assists children, families, individuals, elderly citizens and people with disabilities. For more information about DSS, please visit dss.sd.gov.