Our New Executive Director

Dorothy ED


Senior Staff Attorney, Dorothy Alther has been selected as the new Executive Director for California Indian Legal Services.

Upon accepting the position Ms. Alther noted,

I am honored to have been offered this opportunity to continue to work for CILS in a new capacity. I look forward to the challenges and rewards that come with being the Executive Director of a program that has a long history of serving California Tribes, tribal members and tribal communities.

My vision for CILS is to encourage and support my attorney and advocate staff to be at the forefront of issues facing our client community. Working collectively as a team we can make a difference. By helping build strong tribal infrastructure we can help tribes and the members of the community address problems without having to resort to outside governments for assistance. We will also remain committed to helping individual tribal members with legal problems that impact their health and welfare. CILS will remain a vital resource to our tribal community and continue to provide them top quality legal services.


Dorothy Alther has been an attorney with CILS for over 20 years and was in the Bishop CILS Office until she relocated to the Escondido Office in 2003. Her current work focuses on tribal issues including environmental law, housing law, tribal ordinance development, and tribal recognition. Dorothy serves as legal counsel for tribes and tribal entities, and works with tribal courts, tribal law enforcement development, and a variety of other tribal matters. Ms. Alther has been a trainer on Public Law 280, the Indian Child Welfare Act, housing law and civil and criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. Dorothy is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and graduated from University of South Dakota and earned her J.D. from Northeastern University. Ms. Alther served as Managing Attorney at DNA’s People’s Legal Services in Crownpoint, New Mexico prior to coming to CILS and served as a Tribal Attorney for the Suquamish Tribe in Washington.

In 2010, Dorothy was a recipient of the Pierce-Hickerson Award. Which honors outstanding contributions to the advancement or preservation of Native American rights. Her current work includes two cases now at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; one which will have significant impact in the area of funding tribal law enforcement under an Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act contract and the other addresses whether Congress has waived tribal immunity under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.


The last ten years have been especially productive for CILS. The organization instituted various work groups to address issues specific to Native Americans, including the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and the American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA). Out of a concern for Native families, CILS and other Native advocates fought the “existing Indian family” exception which would have allowed ICWA to apply only in cases where the Indian children have significant political, cultural or social ties to the tribes. CILS supported the enactment of California Senate Bill 678 which codified federal law into California statutes – ensuring that ICWA’s protections appear in state law. Similarly, CILS advocated for a California-specific provision in the AIPRA to allow for Natives with unique Public Domain trust land interests to devise land in Indian Wills.

Tribal law enforcement and tribal courts have, in recent years, flourished within California tribal communities. CILS has led the way with trainings and conferences for California tribes developing their judicial systems. CILS work includes organizing five annual statewide tribal court conferences, drafting numerous tribal codes including peace and security codes, moderating tribal police chief meetings, hosting tribal law enforcement roundtables and offering other tribal justice assistance.

Moving into the future CILS continues to stay attuned to the changing needs of Native communities in California. Today, four field offices (Bishop, Escondido, Eureka, and Sacramento) staffed by advocates including attorneys, paralegals and intake workers serve all fifty eight counties throughout California as well as tribes outside the state.

For additional information, please contact CILS at

CILS staffer passes Bar

Congratulations to one of our own!

jedd photoCongratulations go out to one of California’s newest attorneys – Jedd Parr. Jedd has worked for CILS since 2005 when he first volunteered in CILS’ Bishop office doing general office work. In time his responsibilities grew and he assisted many clients with intake and other direct services. While at CILS Jedd began his law school career and recently graduated from Northwestern California University in 2012. Jedd recently passed the California Bar Exam and is now a full-fledged member of the California State Bar.

Oral argument: Baby Girl Case

Hear the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl Audio Arguments

On April 16, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. An audio recording of those arguments can be heard by clicking this link.

Reservation Source Income



Tribal leaders please circulate to all members

The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has determined that income earned by a tribal member who lives and works on his or her reservation are not subject to state income tax, regardless of the source of the income. The FTB had previously been taxing the income of tribal members whose on reservation income was not from a “tribal source.” The FTB’s practice, which was contrary to established federal law, was brought to the attention of Cynthia Gomez, Tribal Advisor in the Governor’s Office, by the Hoopa Valley Tribe and California Indian Legal Services (CILS.)

Through discussions between the Governor’s Office and FTB, the FTB determined that it would no longer require that tribal member income would need to be from a “tribal source” in order to be tax exempt. The FTB has posted a notice on its website outlining the process for submitting a claim for a refund of income tax that was improperly assessed. Attached is a copy of the FTB webpage. The FTB will be notifying individual tribal members that they are aware of who were improperly assessed. However, the FTB may not be able to notify everyone and so we encourage all tribal members who believe they were improperly taxed on income that they earned on their reservation to contact the FTB as soon as possible even if they do not receive a notice from the FTB. If you have further questions you may contact your local CILS office for assistance.

For a .pdf version of this Alert, click here.

Baby Girl transcript

Transcript available for Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl Supreme Court hearing

The hearing was held April, 16th, 2013. Link to the 64-page transcript here. An audio recording of the hearing will be available by the end of the week.