Become a Signatory to Abbigail A. Amicus Brief

CILS has drafted an amicus brief for an ICWA case currently before the California Supreme Court, In re Abbigail A. This case involves the question of whether a county social services agency has an obligation to assist in the enrollment of a child who is eligible for enrollment but whose parent is not enrolled.

Also at issue in this case is whether it is proper for the court to proceed as if the child is an “Indian child” where the formal definition of “Indian child” is not met, but where it is likely that the child will be an “Indian child” if the Agency provides enrollment assistance. Our brief argues that assistance in enrolling a child is an affirmative obligation of the Agency. Our brief also argues that it is proper to apply ICWA in cases where it is likely that the child will be enrolled once the administrative/bureaucratic process is complete, even where the child does not currently meet the definition of an “Indian child.”

A number of California tribes have previously expressed an interest in becoming a signatory to this brief. Tribes may do so by having an authorized tribal representative fax or email CILS at: (707) 443-8913 or In order to submit the brief to the Court on time, ALL RESPONSIVE FAXES OR EMAILS MUST BE RECEIVED BY 9:00 AM ON FRIDAY, MAY 1ST.

Click here to view appeal on Turtle Talk

California Appeals Court Finds Court Rules about Indian Children Inconsistent with Legislative Intent

The children were eligible for membership at Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The trial court ordered DHHS to help enroll the children as active efforts. DHHS appealed. The appellate court found that both ICWA and California state law limited the definition of Indian child (member, or bio child of a member and eligible), and if the children did not fit in that definition, the laws did not apply. As such, the rules were beyond the scope of the Judicial Counsel to pass.

If you have additional questions call or email Laura Svoboda at our Eureka office: (707) 443-8397 or

California Indian Legal Services Announces New Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Project

California Indian Legal Services (CILS) and our partner, Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition (SHNWC), will provide holistic, comprehensive, culturally appropriate advocacy and legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking in San Diego County. CILS and SHNWC’s VAWA Project is funded through a $500,000, three year grant for Legal Assistance for Victims (LAV) from the U. S. Department of Justice.

Through this project, CILS is able to provide victims with a safety plan, crisis intervention assistance, a danger assessment, or assistance in obtaining restraining orders. The goal and objective of the grant is to provide the victims with permanent protection and long term legal relief in the areas of a divorce, child custody and visitation, division of community property and child and spousal support.

This program will serve survivors of domestic violence from San Diego County, the nine Native American reservations in North San Diego County (Rincon, Pauma, Mesa Grande, Santa Ysabel, La Jolla, San Pasqual, Los Coyotes, Pala, and Inaja/Cosmit) as well as surrounding communities. Through our Native American domestic violence and sexual assault shelter the number of reservations served has increased to all 18 reservations in San Diego County (the highest number of reservations in a single county in the U.S.)

California Indian Legal Services is proud to announce and welcome two new staff members under the VAWA Project. Our new Domestic Violence Advocate is Yvette Morales, who brings three years of advocacy experience to CILS. Susan Platt Dalati will serve as the VAWA Project’s Domestic Violence Attorney. Ms. Dalati has represented individuals in domestic violence and family law cases for over twenty seven years. Both Ms. Dalati and Ms. Morales come to us from North County Family Violence Prevention Center.

We are pleased to have Yvette and Susan on board, and look forward to a productive future meeting the needs of the community.

Click here for a .pdf version of this News Release