Honoring Our Sisters: Rethinking Tribal Court Jurisdiction

By Mark Vezzola, CILS Escondido office Directing Attorney

This event originally aired on July, 15, 2021.

About the Program

Please join us for a presentation on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women movement underway throughout the United States and Canada. Topics to be addressed include the bias that causes so many victims of violent crime to go unnoticed as well the socioeconomic, cultural, and legal factors that allow their killers and perpetrators to get away.

About the Speaker

Mark Vezzola is a Directing Attorney with California Indian Legal Services. His practice includes estate planning for individuals under the American Indian Probate Reform Act, Indian child welfare advocacy, advising Native organizations, tribal boards and committees, administering tribal elections, code drafting and defending casino tort claims. Mark currently serves as the Chief Judge of the Pala Tribal Court in Pala, California and the Chemehuevi Tribal Court in Havasu Lake, California. Mark graduated from UMass-Amherst with a B.A. in history and from UCLA with a J.D. and M.A. in American Indian Studies. During law school he clerked for the Hopi Appellate Court and interned at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice in Washington DC.

The San Diego Law Library is a State Bar of California licensed MCLE provider. Viewing this class provides 1 Hour of [Bias] Self-Study credit.

Provider Information: San Diego County Public Law Library, Provider #11786

Handout Link

The information offered in this short video has been provided as a public service and is intended to provide basic information. This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The views expressed in this video belong to the speaker and are not a representation of the San Diego Law Library.

If you would like to watch more educational videos go to CILS’ youtube channel

Changes To CILS Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Legal Services During COVID

By Susan Dalati, CILS Escondido office Staff Attorney

The CILS Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault (“DV/SA”) Legal Advocacy Program is housed CILS’ Escondido office and is comprised of an attorney and legal advocate. Due to the pandemic, the DV/SA Program staff began providing virtual legal services in March 2020. To date, their services are still being provided virtually. The transition to virtual services has been challenging, but the DV/SA legal staff has met the challenges by assessing their clients’ needs and making changes to accommodate those needs.

One of the significant changes was that DV/SA community providers started to meet more frequently to communicate their current status regarding services and sharing their available resources. The North County Domestic Violence Coalition (currently chaired by the CILS DV Staff Attorney and well attended) started meeting virtually every other week. (They have gone back to monthly meetings). During the pandemic, a new virtual meeting group of providers was formed headed by Keely Linton, the Executive Director of Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition, and comprised of local Tribal community partners. This meeting occurs every week and is still happening.  The meeting has been tremendously helpful in allowing partners to keep in touch, share resources, and expeditiously coordinate client services when needed. The DV/SA Legal Staff feels that this meeting has fostered strong bonds with the Tribal community partners.

The DV/SA Legal Staff found that it sometimes seems to take a bit longer to build trust with a new client because client meetings are being conducted virtually. The DV/SA Legal Staff try to make sure the client is comfortable with them before dispensing legal advice. During the pandemic, the DV/SA Legal Staff has had former clients return to them for services. Some of the issues that have arisen for returning clients include; a marked increase in abuse by their perpetrators, custody and visitation issues related to the pandemic, challenges with maintaining sobriety and mental health, etc. The legal advocate and attorney have worked together since the beginning of the CILS’s first DV/SA grant in 2015. They have always encouraged former clients to return for services if new issues arise or prior issues re-emerge.

The DV/SA Legal Staff is currently taking new client referrals. They assist survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking. All of their services are cost-free, and there are no income guidelines. They primarily serve San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, but they can also give out general information and referrals for other counties. Potential clients can reach out to the legal advocate at (760) 746-8941 extension 106. Please leave a message along with a safe phone number, and your call will be returned. Below please find a list of additional DV/SA resources.


Avellaka “Safety for Native Women” Program Office: 1 (760) 742-8628

Cahuilla Consortium: www.cahuillaconsortium.org 24/7 Helpline: 1 (951) 330-0479 Office: 1 (951) 763-5547 Advocacy email: info@cahuillaconsortium.org

Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocacy 24/7 Office: 1 (760) 765-8897

Indian Health Council’s “Peace Between Partners” Program: www.indianhealth.com  Advocate and Therapist: 1 (760) 749-1410 ext. 5249

San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians Native Women’s Resource Program: www.sanpasqualbandofmissionindians.org  Office: 1 (760) 651-5171

Southern Indian Health Council’s Project Safe Program: http://sihc.org  Office: 1 (619) 445-1188 ext. 200

Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition, Inc.: http://strongheartednativewomen.org Office: 1 (760) 644-4781

StrongHearts Native Helpline: http://strongheartshelpline.org  Helpline: 1 (844) 762-8483

Non-Native American Specific Resources:

California Courts Self Help: http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-domesticviolence.htm

National Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence: http://www.ncdsv.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.ndvh.org  or https://www.thehotline.org   Helpline: 1 (800) 799-7233 (SAFE)

National Human Trafficking Hotline www.humantraffickinghotline.org 1 (888) 373-7888 (TTY: 711) *Text 233733

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK)

Rape Abuse Incest National Network: www.rainn.org 1 (800) 656-4673 (HOPE)

Domestic Violence Legal Services Fundraising

Since 2015, CILS’ Escondido Office has provided legal representation to Native American survivors of domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA). This vital legal program was funded through a federal grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women (OVAW). CILS was not awarded an OVAW grant this year. Without financial support from the donors and the community, our DV and SA legal advocacy program is in jeopardy of closing down.
We are currently looking for grant funding opportunities but are in immediate need of $135,000 to sustain our DV Legal Team past December 31, 2020. We are asking for contributions to keep our program going. Any amount of assistance will help us!
Our DV Legal Team consists of a highly skilled and experienced attorney and legal advocate who have been with our program since its inception. Our program primarily services San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties and provides culturally appropriate, trauma-informed, mobile services to our Native clients. Our DV and SA legal program has helped to save survivors’ lives with safety planning and legal advocacy.
While the current pandemic makes our request for donations challenging, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a spike in DV making our services all the more critical, necessary, and in demand. Please help us sustain these vital legal services as we work to find more funding resources!
Your donation is tax-deductible and will be a write off for you for 2020 if made on or before 12/31/20. Please push the button below to donate. Thank you!



TRIBAL ALERT: Domestic Violence During Covid-19

California Indian Legal Services is very concerned about the potential for a significant increase in domestic violence when families are restricted to their homes. This is undoubtedly a stressful time for all. Many people have lost their jobs, which is causing severe financial distress. Children are having to adapt to a curtailment of their usual activities and a whole new type of learning via the internet, and people are living in fear of catching a dangerous virus and/or are dealing with having caught the virus. Living under these difficult conditions will significantly test people who have a propensity towards committing domestic violence.

The media has started to focus on how these social restrictions can impact the risk of domestic violence. Domestic violence victims may feel trapped in their current situation. Children are more likely to witness domestic violence in the home because they cannot leave to go about their daily activities such as school,etc. Domestic violence is often revealed by children when they  can confide in someone they trust, such as a school counselor. Children’s ability to report is significantly cut off.

Our domestic violence legal team is here to help.  We are currently working remotely, but we have continued to modify and develop ways in which we can best serve our clients. Our legal advocate and an attorney can help with safety planning in a trauma-informed, confidential, culturally sensitive way. The domestic violence legal team is in regular contact with community partner agencies, the district attorney’s office, and law enforcement, and they are well-informed on their current status. The legal team can work quickly with these community partners to get clients connected to any services they may need.

Please feel free to contact our Escondido office at (760) 746-8941 or https://www.calindian.org/help/ if you or someone you know need assistance.

Although the focus of this message is on domestic violence, we would like to remind you that we also serve victims of sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking.

CILS hopes that each of your tribal communities is safe and healthy. All CILS offices are operational and accepting clients. Tribes and their members may call their respective CILS office and our staff will return the call as soon as possible. All staff attorneys are working remotely and continuing to provide legal services to our existing and new clients.


Domestic Violence in Indian Country

By Susan Dalati, CILS Escondido office Staff Attorney

In 2015, California Indian Legal Services (“CILS”) created a Legal Team consisting of an attorney and legal advocate to handle legal issues pertaining to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking. The Legal Team members both came from a social service agency where they handled the same types of legal matters. The Legal Team emphasizes working with the Native American communities, primarily in San Diego and Riverside Counties.

Domestic violence is prevalent in many communities, including Indian country. Native American women, in particular, face a higher risk that they will become a victim of domestic violence than the general population, although the Legal Team works with both male and female clients. The Legal Team has been specially trained on the unique issues Native Americans face when they enter the legal system to deal with domestic violence occurring in their households.

One of the biggest challenges is the fact that many victims/survivors lack adequate transportation to be able to get to attorneys, advocates, and the Courts. The Legal Team has tried to alleviate some of their clients’ transportation challenges by providing mobile services for legal appointments as well as walk-in clinics on several local reservations and at Indian Health clinics. However, transportation issues remain when clients need to attend court hearings. The Legal Team tries to connect clients with agencies that can assist with transportation needs.

Some domestic violence victims/survivors (and their children) face homelessness if they decide to leave the abusive household to seek safety. Many victims/survivors have lived on reservations their whole lives and do not want to leave their community. Unfortunately, often it is not safe to stay on the reservation, due to the proximity of the perpetrator. Housing options may be limited, and we are aware of only one Native American domestic violence shelter in San Diego County.  The Legal Team will work with their Clients when this issue arises to explore all options available.

There is a lot of misinformation going around about the rights of domestic violence victims/survivors. It is important that victims/survivors meet with an attorney to learn about their rights and potential legal remedies even if they do not intend to leave the relationship. The Legal Team provides confidential, trauma-informed, judgment-free, culturally appropriate holistic services and serves both male and female clients. Services are free; they are not income-based. The Legal Team does not pressure clients to take any particular action. Rather, they assess their client’s case and present them with options and the pros and cons of each, thereby empowering the client to make an informed decision.

The Legal Team has developed many collaborative relationships with community partners. Therefore, if the client desires services that are outside of their scope, the Legal Team, with their client’s permission, will work with other agencies to address their client’s needs.

More information here.