CILS Presents Oral Argument Before the California Supreme Court

On May 3, 2016, the California Supreme Court held argument on two Indian Child Welfare Act Cases—only the third and fourth times that the high court has accepted an ICWA case since 1991. California Indian Legal Services has participated in all four cases: Slone v. Inyo County (1991); In re W.B. (2012), and filed amicus briefs in the two 2016 disputes. In both of this term’s cases, Abbigail A. and Isaiah W., CILS presented oral argument before the state Supreme Court.

Watch the live feed of the Supreme Court of California Oral Argument.


Mark Radoff, Escondido Senior Attorney, at the California Supreme Court.

At issue in Abbigail A. was whether Social Services has an obligation to assist an Indian child with her enrollment application after the Cherokee Tribe acknowledged her eligibility, but her father had not yet enrolled. Sacramento County Social Services opposed assisting, and objected to application of the ICWA while Abbigail’s application was pending. Isaiah W. addressed whether a mother forfeited her right to raise ICWA notice violations by not appealing at the early-stage dispositional hearing. Notice and application of the ICWA are a continuing, and case long obligation, but Los Angeles County took a one-strike-and-you’re-out position, that the mother was permanently precluded from raising ICWA violations at later hearings—even if the violations adversely affected a tribe that had not received notice, and could not yet participate.

Both Abbigail A. and Isaiah W. are under submission at the Court and a ruling is expected within 90 days.

California Bar Foundation Fellowship Opportunity Available – Bishop Office

Program Description:

California Indian Legal Services (CILS) is a statewide, tribally controlled, non-profit corporation that provides legal services to Indian tribes, Indian organizations and low income individual Indians on issues involving Federal Indian Law.  CILS provides a variety of legal services including brief counsel and advice and extended representation on core legal issues affecting Native Americans and Indian tribes.  CILS is involved in litigation, policy analysis and advocacy and also provides transactional services to tribes involving economic development and tribal infrastructure.  The Bishop office of CILS is also home to the Eastern Sierra Legal Assistance Project and the Inyo Mono Senior Legal Program.  CILS has four offices throughout California.

Position Description:

With support from the California Bar Foundation, CILS is hiring a summer fellow for 2016. Supervised by the Staff Attorney, this fellow will conduct research, draft correspondence and legal documents, work with office staff and potentially assist with client intake.

Sample of Substantive Areas of Practice:

Land and Environmental issues, NAGPRA and Cultural Resource issues, Indian Child Welfare Act, Taxation issues, Wills and Probate, Jurisdictional issues, Tribal Justice System development, Tribal governance, Public benefits, Healthcare and senior/elder law issues.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Conduct factual research, including possible client intakes;
  • Conduct legal research and analysis;
  • Draft memoranda, pleadings and other documents;
  • Draft advice letters to clients; and
  • Complete other assignments consistent with the request of a supervising attorney.


Second and third-year law students who are interested in Federal Indian Law and serving Indian communities; those with experience in Indian communities or who have completed Indian law courses are preferred.  CILS will also accept and consider applications from 2Ls and recent law school graduates for this fellowship. Applicants must be highly skilled in legal research and writing.

To Apply:

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.  Please submit letter of interest, resume, writing sample, and law school transcripts via:

  • e-mail:
  • mail: California Indian Legal Services, 117 J Street, Suite 300, Sacramento, CA 95814



About the California Bar Foundation Public Interest Legal Fellowship Program

Launched in 2015, the California Bar Foundation’s Public Interest Legal Fellowship Program supports diverse rising 3Ls and recent law graduates who are committed to representing low-income and underserved populations in California. We fund leading California legal aid agencies who are committed to building diverse, inclusive staff environments to receive a summer or yearlong legal fellow.

Through this fellowship program, along with our diversity scholarships and grants, the California Bar Foundation is fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession and, by extension, the justice system as a whole. For more information about our fellowship program, please contact Sheila Bapat at

California Tribe Asks 9th Circ. To Hear Officer Prosecution Row

Law360, New York (March 31, 2016, 9:58 PM ET) — The Bishop Paiute Tribe hitlogo back at a California county’s arguments to dismiss its appeal of the prosecution of one of its police officers, telling the Ninth Circuit Wednesday that county officials have simply parroted a district court’s incorrect ruling in the case without offering any other legal authorities to support their arguments.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. had tossed out the tribe’s complaint in July 2015, finding there was no controversy to rule on after Inyo County, its Sheriff William Lutze and District Attorney Thomas Hardy charged tribal police officer Daniel Johnson with assault with a stun-gun, false imprisonment, impersonating a public officer and battery.

The charges followed Johnson’s alleged use of a stun gun on a non-Native American woman on the tribe’s reservation, and her subsequent detention and delivery to the sheriff’s deputies, according to court documents.

The county had asked the Ninth Circuit to dismiss the tribe’s appeal of Judge Burrell’s decision last week, but the tribe said there is indeed a controversy based on whether Johnson was acting in accord with his inherent tribal authority or whether he was impersonating a California peace officer.

“The inherent authority exercised by the tribe’s police officer is derivative of and inextricably intertwined in its sovereign authority to exclude non-Indians from tribal lands,” the tribe said. “The inherent authority of exclusion is well established under Supreme Court case law and has not been altered, divested or diminished by Congress.”

The county’s interference with the tribe’s inherent law enforcement authority on reservation lands has undermined the tribe’s ability to maintain peace and security by putting its officers in the “untenable situation” of facing arrest and prosecution for doing their job, the tribe said.

“The appellees’ action has also cast doubt in both the tribal and non-Indian communities regarding the authority of tribal police officers to take actions against any person violating tribal, state and federal laws while on tribal lands,” the tribe said, adding that Johnson was acting under well-delineated federal rules that apply to non-natives entering tribal lands and breaking tribal, state or federal laws.

The tribe, whose reservation lies in a remote part of eastern California nestled between national forests, sued the county, Lutze and Hardy in March 2015, alleging the charges against Johnson interfered with its authority to police its own lands.

The feud arose from a domestic dispute on the 875-acre reservation when Johnson responded to a call from a tribe member who said his non-Native American ex-wife was causing a disturbance at his home in violation of both a tribal and state protective order, the complaint said.

Johnson found the woman in her car outside the home, and the two got into a scuffle when she refused to exit her vehicle, according to the tribe’s complaint.

The county argued it couldn’t be sued over actions taken by Lutze and Hardy, claiming they are independently elected officials who were acting within their duties when they arrested and charged Johnson with multiple felonies in January.

While the tribe said it agreed that Hardy was acting as a state official rather than a county official, it claimed Lutze acted with final policymaking authority that made the county responsible for his actions in arresting Johnson and for issuing a “cease and desist” order threatening further prosecutions if tribal officers continued to exercise authority on the reservation.

In July, Judge Burrell tossed the complaint, explaining that it did “not allege ‘a definite and concrete dispute’ regarding what anticipated conduct is involved with the declaratory and injunctive relief it seeks.”

The judge said that the tribe appeared to root its allegations of an actual controversy in its concerns about a warning in the cease and desist letter that stated its tribal officers could be subject to a civil action or a criminal prosecution if they exercise “unlawful force during the unlawful exercise of authority.” But he noted that, in a letter responding to the cease and desist, the tribe said it had intended to comply with the issues addressed in the letter.

Representatives for the parties could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

The Bishop Paiute Tribe is represented by Dorothy Alther and Jasmine Andreas of California Indian Legal Services.

Inyo County, William Lutze and Thomas Hardy are represented by John Douglas Kirby of the Law Offices of John D. Kirby and Marshall S. Rudolph of the County of Inyo’s Office of the County Counsel.

The case is Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County, et al, case number 15-16604, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

By Vidya Kauri

CILS Announces the Formation of the “California Tribal Court Judges’ Association”

Escondido, CA – March 22, 2016: California has the largest Native American population in the country, with over 100 sovereign Indian Nations within its borders. With over twenty active Tribal Courts, California is the home to numerous innovative Tribal Court systems that seek to provide transparent, efficient and effective justice to tribal members throughout the state.  Yet, many of these Tribal Courts face common challenges, ranging from lack of funding and resources to problems with state recognition of their orders. California Indian Legal Services (CILS), with the encouragement of a number of California Tribal Court judges, has formed the California Tribal Court Judges’ Association (CTCJA) to provide a forum for Tribal Court professionals to exchange ideas, address common opportunities, promote the independence and recognition of Tribal Courts, and project a unified voice on state and federal actions that impact tribal jurisdiction.

With assistance and support from CILS, the CTCJA held its first meeting on November 23, 2015.  Since that meeting, CTCJA has moved forward with adopting By-Laws and electing the following Officers:

Chairperson, Honorable Christine Williams, Chief Judge, Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians; and Yurok Tribal Member;

Vice-Chairperson, Honorable Joseph Wiseman, Chief Judge, Northern California Intertribal Court System; and

Secretary, Honorable Mark Radoff, Chief Judge Chemehuevi Indian Tribe

One overarching goal of the CTCJA is to bring greater awareness to state and federal governments of the unique legal needs of the tribal communities that Tribal Courts serve.  The CTCJA looks forward to building stronger and more vibrant Tribal Courts in California and offering new judicial programs and services to their communities.

For more information on the CTCJA please contact Judge Christine Williams at (530) 698-1449 or at and Dorothy Alther, CILS Executive Director at 760-746-8941 or at

About CILS:

California Indian Legal Services is one of the oldest non-profit law firms in the country and largest in California that is devoted exclusively to the causes of Native American rights.  CILS maintains four offices statewide and has been in operation for 48 years. CILS represents California Tribes, tribal organizations, and low-income individuals on matters of Indian law. For more information, please visit


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San Diego County Supervisor Visits CILS Office


CILS Staff in photo below: Directing Attorney Mark Vezzola; Director of Development Nicole Scott; Supervisor Dave Roberts; CILS Chairman Mark Romero.

Supervisor Dave Roberts visited CILS’ Escondido office this month. Supervisor Roberts was interested in the 18 tribes located in San Diego County and how CILS serves these populations with legal assistance.