Bishop Office Highlights

By Mike Godbe, CILS Bishop Office Directing Attorney

The Bishop office of California Indian Legal Services (CILS) has been busy.

For over 35 years, CILS’ Bishop office has been the home of the Eastern Sierra Legal Assistance Program (ESLAP) and the Inyo Mono Senior Legal Program (IMSLP), where we assist seniors (60 +) and low-income individuals with legal matters unrelated to federal Indian law (eviction defense, public benefits, simple wills, durable powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives, etc.). With grant-funded support from the City of Bishop, CILS commissioned the design of new logos and manufacturing of a new sign for the office promoting these two programs .

The new logos were designed by award-winning creative services leader, Ashraf Ali, in consultation with CILS. Ashraf’s commitment to the display of equality, empowerment and inclusion is evident in his work. We’re thrilled with the result and hope that with a sign visible from Bishop’s Main St., that more local residents will find our legal services!

The new sign arrived just in time for an expansion of the office’s eviction defense and homelessness prevention (HP) work. In December 2021 the California State Bar awarded CILS with a competitive HP III grant with two primary components.

First, we will be opening remote computer workstations up and down the far reaches of Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties to make our legal services more accessible to these rural and underserved populations. Housing insecure tenants will be able to schedule an appointment or come to set office hours and video chat with an attorney who can assist them in scanning their lease or an eviction notice. The farthest workstations will be located in Bear Valley and Tecopa – each approximately 4 hours away from our Bishop office.

The second primary component of this exciting new project will also involve remote workstations in three Urban Indian Health Organizations located in Sacramento, Oakland, and Los Angeles. CILS will provide limited legal services to housing insecure urban Native Americans in the clinics where they already receive medical care and related services. CILS will then make an elevated referral directly to a managing attorney at local qualified legal service provider partner who can take the reins and take over representation.

CILS’ Bishop office has also recently welcomed a number of new staff members.
Laura Janoff, Advocate, begin working in October. Laura is a paralegal and notary, and longtime resident of the eastern Sierras. When she’s not working for CILS she volunteers with Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and plays an active role with local alcohol recovery organizations supporting individuals in recovery.

Rachel Leiterman joined the office in February as a part-time Housing Staff Attorney to support the HP III grant projects. She was in private practice for two decades before moving to the Bishop area 10 years ago, and she serves as the volunteer coordinator for Mule Days and volunteers with the Forest Service in her spare time.

Emma Williams joined the office in March as an Administrative Assistant. Emma is a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and brings over a decade of experience working for her Tribe and tribal organizations. Before joining CILS, Emma directed the Bishop Paiute Tribe’s Elder’s program.

Welcome Laura, Rachel, and Emma!

The Bishop office is also searching for a Full Time Housing Staff Attorney to oversee the exciting HP III projects mentioned above. See the details and learn how to apply by reviewing the employment section of our website!

CILS Receives Holiday Donation from the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation

Pictured from left to right: Sycuan’s Paralegal Lauren Ghosh, CILS Escondido Office Directing Attorney Mark Vezzola, CILS Director of Marketing and Development Nicole Scott, Sycuan’s Council members Chairman Cody Martinez, Vice Chairman Joshua Muse, Council Member Alanna Sandoval, Council Member Brianna Sandoval, Treasurer LaShunna Davidson, and Secretary Pilar Pettiford. Missing from the photo is Council Member Xusha Brown, Sr. (Evan McGinnis / Sycuan Casino Resort)

December 9, 2021: By Nicole Scott, Director of Marketing and Development

CILS’ Escondido Office Directing Attorney Mark Vezzola and Director of Marketing and Development Nicole Scott attended Sycuan’s annual Holiday Gift Giving Ceremony at Sycuan’s Heritage Events Center.

Tribal Council Members and top leaders in Sycuan’s Management Team had the opportunity to present a special holiday gift to a charity of their choice. Mark Radoff, General Counsel to the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, selected CILS to receive his gift of $3,750.

“We are incredibly grateful to Sycuan Tribal Council for their support and generosity. CILS is embarking on many exciting changes while building upon the legacy of being the oldest non-profit Federal Indian Law Firm in California. Without this type of support, we would not have been able to make historical strides on behalf of Tribes and continue to do good work today,” said Heather Hostler, Executive Director. “The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation demonstrates great leadership and partnership, and we want to express our appreciation for all they do.”

“CILS appreciates the continued financial support from the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. With the Tribe’s funding, we can reach more and provide greater services to low-income Native Americans and CA tribes,” said Dorothy Alther, Legal Director. “Thank you, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.”

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