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Federal Law Will Stand Despite Challenge That It Places Tribal Interest Over Children's Safety

A federal judge has thrown out a challenge to a nearly 40-year old law originally written to re-unite Native American children with tribal relatives.

Two years ago, Arizona attorneys representing Native American children, challenged the law saying it overruled state laws that protect children over tribal wishes.  

The Goldwater Institute originally started the suit representing two children, but sought to make the case a class action suit on behalf of all Native American children facing possible abuse.

In 1978, the federal courts adopted a law to prevent states from severing parental rights and approving adoptions of Native American children who no longer lived on reservations.  

Goldwater Institute spokesman Timothy Sandefur said certain provisions in that law “require these children to be sent back to the parents that have abused them.''  

His team went further calling the federal law “racist” because it overlooks state laws that place the “best interest of the child” over tribal interest.

“It's unconstitutional," Sandefur said. "And we are entitled to a federal court order to protect these children from suffering this kind of discrimination."

But, Assistant State Attorney General Dawn Williams questioned Sandefur’s logic for changing the law.

“The federal law was enacted to remediate generations of forced assimilation,” she wrote and argued the lawsuit cited only, “nebulous speculative harm” to the children in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake agreed and in his final decision wrote, "Any true injury to any child or interested adult can be addressed in the state court proceeding itself, based on actual facts before the court, not on hypothetical concerns.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to correct who started the lawsuit.

Holliday Moore is a native Arizonan and veteran journalist who joined KJZZ’s news team in January 2017.Moore graduated from Arizona State University after double majoring in mass communications and marketing/management. She spent her first two decades reporting for television news, beginning in small markets and working up to congressional correspondent in Washington, D.C., for a political news service.Family commitments in Arizona brought her back to the Southwest, where she covered legislative and court beats for Albuquerque’s KRQE-TV and the infamous Four Corner Manhunt as KREZ-TV’s managing editor.Back home in Phoenix, she developed ABC15’s “Democracy Project,” now instituted at all Scripps’ news stations nationwide. Her work garnered “Best Practices” recognition by the Poynter Institute and the prestigious Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.Her television reports, from sports to cultural issues, earned her multiple Emmy and Associated Press nominations, including a Rocky Mountain Emmy for her Hopi Partition Land Act coverage.As she started a family, Moore started her own media production agency, producing magazine-style travel stories for the Emmy-winning Arizona Highways Television show while working part time for a Valley radio station. She is convinced radio is where visual, sound, and print are merging through deeper storytelling. In her relatively short time with radio network affiliates, she has won four Edward R. Murrow Awards and multiple nominations from other professional news societies.Moore now teaches advanced broadcast writing to the next generation of reporters at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where a high percentage have gone on to receive national awards for their work in her class. She enjoys being back home near childhood friends and sharing the beautiful Arizona desert with her husband and young son.