RAPID CITY, S.D. (Legal Newsline) - A lawsuit from two Native American tribes accusing state officials of violating federal law can proceed as a class action lawsuit.
LuAnn Van Hunnik, the person in charge of Child Protective Services in South Dakota; Mark Vargo, the State's Attorney for Pennington County, S.D.; the Hon. Jeff Davis, the presiding judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court of South Dakota; and Kim Malsam-Rysdon, the secretary of the South Dakota Department of Social Services were all named as defendants in the suit.
District Judge Jeffrey L. Viken refused to dismiss the lawsuit on Jan. 28, and ruled that parts of it can proceed at an expedited pace as a class-action case, according to court documents.
Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 because of the once high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by public and private agencies.
Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Rochelle Walking Eagle, Madonna Pappan and Lisa Young all claimed the defendants violated the Indian Child Welfare Act by holding improper hearings after children were removed from homes, according to a complaint filed March 21 in the U.S. District Court for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota-Western Division.
The plaintiffs are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief. They are being represented by Rachel E. Goodman and Stephen L. Pevar of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Dana Hanna of Hanna Law Office PC.
Van Hunnik and Malsam-Rysdon are being represented by Robert L. Morris of Day Morris Law Firm LLP.
Vargo is being represented by Sara Frankenstein and J. Crisman Palmer of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore LLP.
Davis is being represented by Roxanne Giedd and Ann F. Mines of the South Dakota Attorney General's Office; and Nathan R. Oviatt of Goodsell Quinn LLP.
U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota-Western Division case number: 5:13-cv-05020