Court Cases By State - Alaska

Court Cases by Alaska

In re Adoption of Sara J., Joel J. and Morris J.
123 P.3d 1017 (Alaska 2005)

The foster parent to three Native American siblings petitioned to adopt the children. Children experienced numerous failed placements with relatives and reunification with their birth parents failed. Their tribe and a relative opposed adoption based on the Indian Child Welfare Act’s preference for placing Native American children with Native American families unless there is a showing of good cause. The court affirmed the lower court’s decision that good cause existed to deviate from ICWA and the adoption was granted. Each of the children had special educational and behavioral needs and one had FASD. The tribe’s village could not adequately meet the children’s needs and services and health care were more available in adoptive mother’s town.

Denny v. Alaska
No. A-7140, 1999 WL 34002415 (Alaska Ct. App. 1999).

Following a plea agreement, Denny pled no contest to second-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and furnishing liquor to a minor. Denny faced a presumptive sentence of 4 years imprisonment, which the judge increased to 6 years based on various statutory aggravating factors. Denny appealed, arguing that the sentencing judge inappropriately applied the aggravating factors and did not address his cognitive disabilities and probable FAE. The Court upheld the sentence. In a concurring opinion, one of the judges states that the record shows that the sentencing judge explicitly considered Denny's cognitive disabilities and concluded that Denny's actions were not to be excused by such disabilities, and that such cognitive disabilities may be one of the reasons why Denny failed to rehabilitate after his last interaction with the criminal justice system.

E.T. v. State
879 P. 2d 363 (Alaska 1994)

E.T., age 14, committed a number of offenses. Two psychologists who evaluated E.T. concluded that he had the symptoms of FAS or FAE. The state brought a juvenile proceeding against E.T., and the trial court committed him to the custody of the state Department of Health and Social Services. That order permitted the Department to place him outside the parental home. Although E.T.'s family was in Nome, the Department intended to send him to a facility in Fairbanks.

The decision to send E.T. to Fairbanks was explained as follows:

"Bonnie Thompson, the Kotzebue regional director for juvenile corrections and the juvenile probation officer who prepared the pre-disposition report, recommended that E.T. be placed in a group home where he could receive specialized treatment for fetal alcohol syndrome, with the ultimate goal of returning E.T. to his family."

879 P. 2d at 364. There was in Nome some sort of treatment program for individuals with FAS, but it had 200 people on the waiting list. The Department wanted to send E.T. to "Hospitality House" in Fairbanks, which had had good success in dealing with FAS juveniles.

The Children's Master (a hearing officer) who heard the evidence "was convinced that E.T.'s disposition had to include treatment for his FAS symptoms." He explained to E.T., "I think you need the structure, I think you need the counseling, I think you need the setting to get you straightened out." 879 P. 2d at 365. The trial judge agreed to allow the Department to send E.T. to Fairbanks, but provided that he could only be placed in a "non-institutional" setting. 879 P. 2d at 364. The appellate court upheld the decision to send E.T. to Fairbanks, explaining that it was needed to assure "adequate evaluation, treatment, and supervision." 879 P. 2d at 365.

This decision provides important support for the argument that offenders with FAS/FAE should be sentenced to facilities or programs that know how to evaluate and deal with FAS/FAE.

In The Matter of Adoption of F.H.
851 P. 2d 1361 (Alaska 1993)

The decision erroneously states that FAE "is not as severe" as FAS. (851 P. 2d at 1363).

Sherry R. v. State
74 P. 3d 896 (Alaska 2003)

Court approves termination of mother's parental rights. One ground was that the children had FAS, and that the mother "does not accept or understand her children's disabilities." 74 P. 3d at 903.