Judge's ruling allows tribal courts to supervise adoptions

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2008

ANCHORAGE - A federal judge is ordering the state of Alaska to allow tribal courts to supervise adoptions.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess last month issued a decision that also gives tribal courts more say in other child welfare matters.

The decisions are at odds with Gov. Sarah Palin's administration, which more closely follows that of her predecessor, former Gov. Frank Murkowski. His attorney general, Gregg Renkes, issued an opinion in October 2004 withdrawing state approval for tribal adoptions unless tribal courts apply for special permission, which few have done.

The Feb. 22 decision, along with a similar recent decision in state court, would return the state to a more cooperative tribal policy established under former Gov. Tony Knowles.

The Knowles administration approved birth certificates and other state records for several hundred children adopted by order of village tribes.

Since then, about 50 tribal adoptions per year have been left in limbo, said Natalie Landreth, a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund in Anchorage.

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