Today the California Supreme Court denied a petition to reconsider a state appellate court ruling in the case of a 6-year-old Choctaw Nation tribal member who was returned to her relatives last week after a five-year custody battle. On March 21, foster parents Summer and Russell Page ignited a worldwide firestorm of publicity when they initially refused to turn Lexi over to her biological relatives because of their objections to the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law enacted in 1978 to prevent the dissolution of tribal families and communities across the country.
See the court docket here.
With dozens of media outlets and protesters camped out at the couple’s home, officials with the county Department of Child and Family Services were concerned about the child’s safety and made the decision not to retrieve her that day and began attempting negotiations for a more peaceful transfer, according to those familiar with the case.
But after the couple indicated they would not be willing to facilitate the transfer in a more “neutral” location, on March 22, the Department of Child and Family Services issued a press release announcing its intention to follow the court order and told the Pages to prepare her for transfer.
That afternoon, chaos erupted at the Page’s home with shouting and screams of protest as officials from DCFS arrived to collect the child, who sobbed as she was carried to a waiting vehicle. As the vehicle pulled away, some of the protesters beat on the windows of the car with the child inside.
On March 25, Robert Flores and Lori Alvino McGill, who are attorneys for the Pages, filed petitions to have the case transferred from the appellate court to the California Supreme Court. The Pages attorneys requested a stay of the order returning Lexi to her relatives in Utah and filed a petition to reconsider the appellate court ruling, both of which were rejected by the California Supreme Court this afternoon, effectively setting the stage for another showdown with the United States Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act only three years after Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.
The case began in 2010 when the child’s father lost custody of his daughter after he went to jail for selling stolen auto parts, according to court documents. The girl went through several foster homes before being placed with the Pages, who subsequently tried to adopt the girl out of foster care, in spite of repeated warnings that she was not up for adoption and that she had biological family in Utah who wanted to raise her.
In 2014, a California appeals court rejected the Pages’ appeal of an order to return the girl to her relatives in Utah, as well as their petition to be recognized as parents with the same rights and legal standing as biological parents. The Utah couple, who also have custody of Lexi’s biological half-sister, have had ongoing, lifelong contact with Lexi. According to court documents and the Choctaw Nation, the couple have visited her at their own expense every month and Skyped with her at least once a week. Additionally, Lexi has also visited them for extended stays at their home in Utah numerous times, contradicting the Pages contention that she “doesn’t know them.”
After the chaos surrounding Lexi’s transfer last week, authorities have placed a gag order on the Pages for violating the confidentiality laws surrounding minor children in state custody. Ignoring the gag order, however, the couple have continued to appear in media interviews to voice their objections to ICWA and appeal for donations and public support in their quest to adopt the child.
“By now, the Pages’ pattern of willfully violating court orders they don’t agree with should be cause for great alarm for anyone following this case,” The National Indian Child Welfare Association said in a statement on its Facebook page. “A gag order exists for one reason: to protect the child. This public relations campaign is not only ill-advised and irresponsible, it is harmful to the child.”