Cherokee girl's parents' lawyers seek $1M in fees
NOWATA, Okla. (AP) - Attorneys for the adoptive parents of a 4-year-old girl caught up in a custody dispute have filed paperwork in Oklahoma seeking $1 million in legal fees from the Cherokee Nation and the girl's biological father, who has dropped all legal claims to his daughter.
Attorneys representing Matt and Melanie Capobianco filed paperwork in Nowata County seeking the legal fees incurred while fighting the lengthy custody battle over 4-year-old Veronica.
In September, Dusten Brown handed Veronica over to the Capobiancos after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an emergency stay keeping the girl in Oklahoma.
The Tulsa World reported Wednesday ( http://bit.ly/18YCYuv) that attorneys for the Capobiancos are seeking $1 million to be split among four law firms. The newspaper reports none of the money would go to the Capobiancos.
Veronica has been the subject of court battles since she was born to a non-Cherokee mother, who put the girl up for adoption. The Capobiancos had been lined up to receive custody since 2009.
Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, pressed claims under the Indian Child Welfare Act and won custody when the girl was 27 months old. The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 with the intent of reducing the high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native American families.
The Capobiancos' legal team worked pro bono, said Lori Alvino McGill, a Washington, D.C., attorney who traveled to Oklahoma to represent the couple.
"They could not possibly have afforded to pay," Alvino McGill said. "But even in pro bono representations, lawyers are permitted to recoup their fees and expenses ... here they are quite significant in certain circumstances when they prevail, as here."
Brown's attorney, Rob Nigh, declined to comment specifically on the latest court filing.
"What I can say is that at all times, Dusten Brown has been motivated by what he believed to be in Veronica's best interest," Nigh said.
"And any response we make will include a reference to what motivated Mr. Brown's exercise of legal rights on his daughter's behalf."
The Cherokee Nation also declined to comment.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com
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