Equal Protection Posted on March 25, 2016

In re. Alexandra P.


Last Step

Filed amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the de facto parents' petition for certiorari.

Next Step

Court denied petition, case closed.

This California case—which has become notorious as the “Lexi” case—involves the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that dictates how courts decide foster care, adoption, and custody proceedings that involve children of American Indian ancestry.  (The Goldwater Institute is challenging the constitutionality of the Act in a federal civil rights lawsuit, A.D. v. Washburn, also known as Carter v. Washburn, on behalf of children in Arizona who are subject to the Act.)  The Lexi case involves a 6-year old girl who is 1/64th Choctaw by blood, and who has been taken from the California foster family with whom she has lived for four years, and placed with another family in Utah, thanks to the intervention of the Oklahoma-based Choctaw tribe.

The case highlights some of the Indian Child Welfare Act’s worst aspects—particularly the way the Act overrules the “best interests of the child” standard that applies in adoption proceedings involving children of all other races, and imposes a separate, substandard set of rules for cases that involve children of Indian heritage.  The Act also allows tribes to intervene in lawsuits involving Indian children anywhere in the United States, and order them placed with people the tribe chooses.  As a result, a child in California can be sent to Utah by a tribe headquartered in Oklahoma—and all based on a child’s racial ancestry.  We are appearing as friends of the court to argue that the Act is unconstitutional.

Case Documents

Goldwater's Amicus Brief in Support of Lexi's Foster Family in the California Court of Appeal (4/25/2016) (1.3 MB)

Goldwater's Amicus Curiae Letter Brief in Support of Petition for Writ of Supersedeas or Other Appropriate Writ (3/25/2016) (2.9 MB)

Goldwater’s letter brief in support of Petition for Review in the California Supreme Court (8/18/16) (6.6 MB)

Amicus brief urging U.S. Supreme Court to take the case (147.7 KB)


Timothy Sandefur is Vice President for Litigation. Before joining Goldwater, he served 15 years as a litigator at the Pacific Legal Foundation, where he won important victories for economic liberty ... Read

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