Happy anniversary, Dorothy

 A noteworthy milestone

Today marks Dorothy Alther’s 23rd anniversary with CILS.  Dorothy is a veteran of CILS and a true asset to our program.  Her positive relationships with CILS’ tribal clients, her wealth of knowledge in Indian law, and her endless energy demonstrate her commitment to the betterment of Indian country in California and nationwide.  Her recent efforts in the areas of California tribal law enforcement have begun a wave of resurgence among California tribes to assert their authority in the area of tribal police and to question BIA and other state and federal agencies policies and procedures in dealing with California tribes and their inherent jurisdiction.  Dorothy’s achievements warrant more than we can write here, so please keep a look out on our Escondido staff page and Pierce-Hickerson Award story and photo for more about Dorothy and her tenure with CILS.  A sincere congratulations and thank you to you, Dorothy, for your part in making CILS the outstanding law firm we are today.  Photo courtesy of NLADA.

IRS Extends Comment Period re Exclusion for Tribal Programs

TRIBAL ALERT February 15, 2012

EXTENDED Commenting Period on General Welfare Exclusion for
Tribal Benefit Programs


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is extending the time limit for commenting on guidance the agency issued regarding the application of the general welfare exclusion to Indian tribal government programs. The general welfare exclusion allows certain tribal government social welfare program income to be excluded as taxable income.  Many gaming tribes in their Revenue Allocation Plan (RAP) have a provision for the allocation of gaming revenue for “general welfare.” Over the years there has been confusion with regard to whether a tribal social program established under the tribe’s “general welfare” RAP automatically qualified the program for the IRS “general welfare exemption.”  In many cases the tribal program did not qualify, thus exposing the tribe and tribal members to tax liability. Written comments are now due on or before March 14, 2012.  To read more visit: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-11-94.pdf.

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


Los Coyotes v ERTC Eviction Ruling

A victory in the Intertribal Court of Southern California

In a decision issued on February 2, 2012, the Intertribal Court of Southern California ruled in favor of the Los Coyotes Tribe in an eviction proceeding against the Eagle Rock Training Center (ERTC) regarding a disputed lease under which ERTC claimed to control a substantial portion of the Tribe’s Warner Springs Reservation. The Reservation, which covers 25,000 acres, is the largest in San Diego County and ERTC claimed permission to use a portion of it for artillary practice, weapons discharge, and military training, all of which inflicted a toll on tribal cultural sites, road access, grading of land, and created the potential for fire danger. The tribe’s General Council disputed the nature and extent of the use, and took issue with ERTC refusing to obtain tribal permits. In June 2011 Los Coyotes voted to exclude ERTC from the Reservation, and issued a Notice to Vacate. Again in September 2011, when ERTC had not vacated the Tribe served a notice of violation of Tribal laws, including environmental non-compliance, law and order violations, grading violations, and not allowing Tribal members access to their own Reservation. Since the alleged lease was never submitted or approved by the BIA, and  was not voted on by the General Council, the Tribe also took issue with any occupancy of its Indian lands based on an invalid lease.  California Indian Legal Services’ Mark Radoff represented the Tribe, in the eviction case, and is also representing the Tribe in an ongoing Federal Court case where ERTC is trying to enjoin the Tribe from enforcing its laws. That court’s preliminary ruling was that the “alleged” lease did not have a valid waiver of the the Tribe’s sovereign immunity, and was therefore unenforceable. A  motion to dismiss the Federal lawsuit is currently pending. The tribal court decision is great victory for tribal sovereignty.


In Memory of Friend & Colleague

Beth Wylie

July 8, 1963 – January 28, 2012

CILS is very saddened to share that former CILS Legal Assistant, Beth Wylie Gjerstad, passed away on January 28, 2012 after a long and hard-fought battle with stage IV metastatic breast cancer.  Beth began her eight-year tenure with CILS in 2002 and departed in 2010 to devote her strength towards battling the disease. Her warm spirit and dedication to family and friends will always be a source of inspiration for all who knew Beth.  From her first day at CILS, when she wore her stunning navy blue suit, Beth carried herself with professionalism and consistently showed her enthusiasm for our Native client communities.  During her tenure at CILS, Beth assisted our Escondido Office attorneys on countless numbers of cases.  Happy to work behind the scenes Beth could always be counted on for a smile, even on those most difficult days. “During the most stressful times at the office, one smile from Beth and you knew things were going to get better,” remembers a co-worker.  While Beth resided in Southern California for many years, she was fiercely proud of her Seattle roots and had recently moved home to be near her family.  CILS Staff remembers her love of telling a good story, whether it was about her learning experiences at Shoreline Community College where she studied law enforcement, her take on a t.v. episode of Intervention, stories about her dog, Inga, or her latest attempted recipe.  As a single parent, Beth made innumerable sacrifices and always tried to improve as a parent.  She once wrote, “I don’t think my kids know how much I really love them and I want to be better at showing that.”  But her love and care, especially of her girls, was most evident.  Beth is survived by her daughters Becca and Sarah, her son Bryan and her grandson Bailey.  A memorial fund to support her daughters is being established in Beth’s honor.  Those who wish to make donations can contact Patricia De La Cruz-Lynas at delacruz@calindian.org.  A memorial service for Beth is currently being planned (details to be posted as appropriate).

BOE Regulations 1616

New BOE Regulations Apply Sales and Use Tax Exemptions to Landless Tribes


Recent amendments drafted by the State Board of Equalization (BOE), with comments and feedback from California Indian Legal Services and many tribes throughout the states, will allow federally recognized tribes to enjoy a broader exemption from sales and use taxes on personal tangible property. These amendments recognize the reality that not all federally recognized tribes in California have a land base.  The state of California will no longer treat federally recognized tribes without a land base differently than all other federally recognized tribes.

The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved the Board’s recent amendments to Sales and Use Tax Regulation 1616, Federal Areas on January 11, 2012 and the amended regulation was then filed with the California Secretary of State.  The amendments, which become effective February 10, 2012, add a new subdivision (d)(4)(G) to Regulation 1616 describing the circumstances under which sales of tangible personal property to and the use of tangible personal property by the governments of federally-recognized Indian tribes are exempt from California sales and use tax because the tax is preempted by federal law.

The BOE website page’s (www.boe.ca.gov) section containing sales and use tax regulations will be revised soon to include the amended regulation.  Until then, please visit the “pending revisions” currently listed next to Regulation 1616 to review the OAL amendments.  Publication 146, Sales to American Indians and Sales in Indian Country, will also be revised to incorporate the amendments.  The BOE’s American Indian Tribal Issues page can be found at https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/industry/indianLandSales.htm.