Several parties have a stake in the outcome. These include the biological and adoptive parents, the federal government, the Oklahoma-based tribe, and a legal guardian appointed by the state to represent the child's interests.
Brown had earlier signed a legal document agreeing to put the girl up for adoption, but his attorneys said he did not understand the extent of the waiver and that the birth mother misrepresented the child's American Indian heritage to social service workers when the adoption was finalized.
At issue was whether Brown, as the onetime non-custodial father, could gain parental custody, after the non-Indian mother initiated an adoption outside the tribe.
A special congressional law governs such interstate adoptions, since the current 556 federally recognized-tribes all fall under Interior Department oversight, giving those tribes certain unique benefits and rights.
The Capobianco's lawyers had argued federal law does not define an unwed biological father as a "parent."
Relinquished parental rights
The Indian Child Welfare Act was a response to decades of often abusive social service practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of native youngsters from their families, in many cases to non-Native American homes.
The legislation was designed to "promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and Indian families by the establishment of minimum federal standards to prevent the arbitrary removal of Indian children from their families and tribes and to ensure that measures which prevent the breakup of Indian families are followed in child custody proceedings."
Brown's relationship within the "federally recognized government" of the Cherokee Nation means Veronica is a member of the tribe and subject to its jurisdiction.
"It's not anyone's intent ever to rip a child away from a loving home," said Todd Hembree, the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based tribe's attorney general. "But we want to make sure those loving homes have the opportunity to be Indian homes first."
But Brown argued he successfully established paternity under state law, and qualified as a "parent" under the tribal statute, thereby giving him proper control and custody of his daughter.
He agreed to relinquish his parental rights in exchange for not paying child support, but said the mother never indicated she intended unilaterally to give the child up for adoption.
And Brown claims the biological mother tried to "conceal" his Indian heritage during the adoption process with the Capobiancos.