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Jumping Eagle v. Warren

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

September 19, 2019



          Lawrence L. Piersol United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Irving D. Jumping Eagle ("Jumping Eagle") filed a. pro se Petition, an Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees, a Prisoner Trust Account Report, and a Motion for Court-Appointed Counsel. (Docs. 1, 4, 5, 6.) He also filed a motion for production of court records and a motion for judicial notice of adjudicative facts. (Docs. 7, 8.) Subsequently, Jumping Eagle requested additional time to review the state-court record and amend his Petition. (Doc. 11.) The Court granted the request for additional time, allowing Jumping Eagle until May 1, 2019, to file a motion to amend with a proposed Amended Complaint. (Doc. 12 at 8.) But he did not file a motion to amend or an Amended Complaint and, therefore, the Court will screen Jumping Eagle's initial Petition.


         Jumping Eagle, the biological father of the minor child, I.L.J.E., filed a Petition to invalidate the state court custody proceedings involving the child. He brings the Petition pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 1914 of the Indian Child Welfare Act ("ICWA" or "Act"), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901 et seq., seeking to invalidate an order entered by the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Brookings County, South Dakota, appointing Defendant Lloyd V. Warren, the child's uncle, and Defendant Katie L. Warren, the child's aunt, guardians of I.L.J.E. (Doc. 1-1, "Guardianship Order"). The facts relevant to Jumping Eagle's claims are set forth in the Court's April 2, 2019 Memorandum Opinion and Order. (Doc. 12.) Instead of restating all of those facts, the Court incorporates them herein by reference.


         In support of his request to vacate the Guardianship Order, Jumping Eagle alleges in his Petition that the trial court failed to inquire into and determine Jumping Eagle's indigent status and eligibility for court appointed counsel to assist him in the proceedings, in violation of 25 U.S.C. § 1912(b).[1] Second, Jumping Eagle claims the trial court "continued to ignore" the ICWA by receiving evidence regarding the criminal prosecution of Jumping Eagle. He says that this led to the state court's decision to award custody of I.L.J.E. outside the tribal and cultural settings in violation of 25 U.S.C. § 1915.[2] Finally, Jumping Eagle alleges that he was denied his right to appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court, and to this Court, because he did not have counsel or a record to assist him.

         A. Jurisdiction

         "[F]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." United States v. Afremov, 611 F.3d 970, 975 (8th Cir. 2010). A district court "has a special obligation to consider whether it has subject matter jurisdiction in every case." Hart v. United States, 630 F.3d 1085, 1089 (8th Cir. 2011).

         The subject matter jurisdiction of this Court may derive from the citizenship of the parties, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332, a federal question posed by the underlying lawsuit, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or special circumstances covered by federal statute. Jumping Eagle's asserted basis for jurisdiction is a federal statute, 25 U.S.C. § 1914, which provides:

Any Indian child who is the subject of any action for foster care placement or termination of parental rights under State law, any parent or Indian custodian from whose custody such child was removed, and the Indian child's tribe may petition any court of competent jurisdiction to invalidate such action upon a showing that such action violated any provision of sections 1911, 1912, and 1913 of this title.

25 U.S.C.A. § 1914.

         The Circuit Courts that have addressed the issue have held "that federal district courts have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 over complaints in which a plaintiff alleges a violation of §§ 1911, 1912, or 1913." Morrow v. Winslow, 94 F.3d 1386, 1394 (10th Cir. 1996) (citing Roman-Nose v. New Mexico Dep't of Human Servs., 967 F.2d 435, 437 (10th Cir. 1992)); see also Doe v. Mann, 415 F.3d 1038, 1047 (9th Cir. 2005) (holding that, through ICWA, "Congress explicitly authorized federal courts to invalidate state court judgments in this limited area [of Indian child dependency and custody judgments].").

         Here, Jumping Eagle alleges, in part, that the South Dakota state court did not properly comply with the requirements of § 1912 of the ICWA in granting the defendants' petition for guardianship of I.L.J.E. Thus, the Court concludes that subject matter jurisdiction exists in this case.

         B. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), a prisoner who "brings a civil action or files an appeal in forma pauperis . . . shall be required to pay the full amount of a filing fee." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The court may, however, accept partial payment of the initial filing fee where appropriate. Therefore, "' [w]hen an inmate seeks pauper status, the only issue is whether the inmate pays the entire fee at the initiation of the proceedings or over a period of time under an installment plan.'" ...

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