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.

Supreme Court Amicus Submitted in Little River Band of Ottawa Labor Dispute

California Indian Legal Services filed an Amicus Brief with the Rincon Band of Mission Indians requesting the United States Supreme Court review the National Labor Relation Board’s decision against the Little River Band of Ottawa and Soaring Eagle Casino. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision invalidating both tribes’ Tribal Labor Relations Ordinance, or TLRO. The NLRB, or Board, ruled that the tribal labor laws were pre-empted by the federal law, the National Labor Relations Act. The specific issue had to do with labor organizing and strike prohibitions, but the larger issue affecting California tribes is whether one agency, the Board, can contradict another federal agency, the Department of Interior, who had approved California tribes’ gaming compacts that included a TLRO as a component part.

Flag_of_the_Little_River_Band_of_Ottawa_IndiansThe Amicus Brief, which was filed on behalf of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (SCTCA), and the California Association of Tribal Governments (CATG) asks the high court to resolve a split amongst the Federal Circuit Courts. The 6th Circuit ruling conflicts with a 10th Circuit Ruling on the same issue, and changes the test applied in California’s 9th Circuit regarding when a tribal business is a government enterprise or whether it is a commercial enterprise.  Historically tribal businesses have been treated similarly to state or other governmental enterprises, but this decision’s effect cast doubt on the test applied. Moreover, because California’s gaming tribes entered into legally binding compacts with the state that include a model TLRO, the Little River decision potentially places those tribes in violation of their compact if they do not comply with federal labor law.

Without clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court on this question, compliance with the TLROs puts tribal governments at risk of either NLRB unfair labor practice violations because the TLRO directly conflict with the NLRA or in violation of its TRLO and potential charges from California or the Department of Interior for such noncompliance. Application of the NLRA in place of tribal TLROs could also disrupt critical State and tribal government revenues through lockouts or strikes. Because nongaming tribes receive revenue sharing through the RSTF and the state relies on payments for regulation, the impact of the Board’s ruling goes far beyond the 6th Circuit.

If accepted for review the Supreme Court would not hear the case or receive briefing until its next term.

Read amicus brief here: USSC 15-1024 Amicus Brief fo California Nations Gaming Association et al.


The Board of Trustees of California Indian Legal Services (CILS) is currently accepting applications for appointments to the Board for Community Representatives from the southern region of California (for regional representation information, see list of counties covered in “Qualifications” section below). Members of the Board of Trustees play an active and significant role in shaping CILS. Serving on our Board of Trustees is both rewarding and challenging, and it offers a significant opportunity to impact the future of this organization that is so vital to California Indian individuals, families, communities and tribes.

Board members are expected to attend four (4) quarterly Board meetings each year; at a minimum three (3) via teleconference and one (1) in-person for the June quarterly meeting (in-person attendance for all meetings is encouraged), attend at least one (1) CILS sponsored event per year, participate on 1-2 Board committees, contribute an average of 1-2 hours per month between quarterly meetings, attend Board development retreats and trainings, participate in annual strategic planning sessions and fundraising efforts, make a personally significant financial contribution each year (100% participation from the board is expected), and actively contribute their expertise to the Board’s important role in CILS’ organizational and programmatic affairs including recruiting new Board members as well as community relations.

The Community Representative positions on the Board are important, as they offer an opportunity to speak to and advocate for the needs and expectations of the communities we serve. Towards that end, low-income applicants are particularly encouraged to apply. Applications are currently being considered for open vacancies and holdover appointments. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis as appointments expire or become vacant. We currently have two (2) southern region community representative seat vacancies. One (1) of these vacant seats must be filled by a client-eligible individual (see “Qualifications” section below for detailed information). The Board of Trustees will be reviewing applications for appointment at its June, September and December 2016 quarterly meetings.


CILS is an Indian-controlled, non-profit law firm devoted exclusively to the cause of Native American rights. CILS was the first non-profit Indian rights law firm in the country and for over forty-seven years, we have provided California tribes and Indian individuals with direct representation, advocacy, public policy, and community-building services. Through free and low-cost legal services on such matters as child welfare, Indian land issues, discrimination, housing, public benefits eligibility, probate, tribal sovereignty, expansion of the Indian land base, and repatriation of sacred items, CILS fulfills its mission to protect and advance Indian rights, foster Indian self-determination, and facilitate tribal nation-building.

CILS has four (4) field offices throughout California. Locations include: Bishop, Escondido, Eureka and Sacramento. The Principal Office of CILS is also housed in the Escondido CILS office. Our Board of Trustees is composed of eleven (11) individuals: four (4) attorney appointments made by the State Bar of California and seven (7) community representatives recommended/nominated by California Indian tribes and organizations.


To be eligible for appointment to the CILS Board of Trustees as a Community Representative, an individual must be California Indian. Recommendations for appointment of Community Representatives are made by California Indian tribes and organizations: federally-recognized Indian tribes, terminated Indian tribes, unrecognized Indian tribes, Indian associations, organizations, and groups. The individual must be a resident of California and reside in the geographic area that they will represent (see below to determine which region the applicant would represent).

Northern California Counties include: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba.

Southern California Counties include: Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura.

Some, but not all, of CILS’s Board of Trustee positions must be filled by low-income individuals. To be considered low-income, individuals must have a household income equal to or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines (FPIG). In some instances, an individual may have a household income equal to or below 200% of the FPIG and still qualify. Eligibility will be assessed during the appointment process. Questions regarding qualifications and/or eligibility may be directed to Patricia De La Cruz-Lynas at the phone number below.


All applications are comprised of: 1) a letter of interest and 2) resume from the individual. In their letter of interest, applicants should describe not only their interest in serving on the CILS Board, but also specific skills, experience, or areas of expertise they would bring to the Board. Applicants should indicate the name of the California Indian tribe, organization, or group that would support their application. Prior to appointment, a formal resolution, support letter or similar action from the recommending organization or tribe must be submitted.

If you are an individual who would like to be apply, or you are an organization that would like to nominate an individual for appointment, please contact Patricia De La Cruz-Lynas, California Indian Legal Services, 609 South Escondido Blvd., California 92025; (916) 978-0960 ext. 314. Applications may also be submitted via email to: Applications will be considered on a rolling basis as appointments expire or become vacant.