By Denise Bareilles, CILS Eureka office Directing Attorney

Here are a few examples of the good work from our Eureka office:

CILS gave training “Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Tribal Courts” on August 17th, 2021. The training discussed the various ways a Tribal Court may consider setting up a GAL or CASA program and potential resources available. Training topics included: the different types of guardian’s ad litem used in court proceedings; their roles and responsibilities; the benefits of using GALs and CASAs; considerations for establishing a program; incorporating GAL and CASA provisions in a Tribal Ordinance; and resources available to start a GAL or CASA program such as the local University to utilize social worker students, and the National, state, and/or local CASA programs. Tribal Courts throughout California attended, including a few Tribal Courts located outside of California.

CILS is rescheduling its training in conjunction with the Yurok Tribal Court, Hoopa Valley Tribal Court, and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on “Pro Bono Representation for Domestic Violence Matters in Tribal Courts.” Be on the lookout for a Save The Date Announcement in the next few weeks.

The pandemic has kept CILS on its toes to shift platforms for its “Basic Estate Planning” Clinic scheduled on September 9th, 2021, at the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria. To protect our community and elders, we changed the clinic from in-person to one-on-one phone consult appointments. Please contact the Eureka office as soon as possible to schedule a one-on-one phone appointment set for September 9th, 2021. We will address general estate planning issues, durable powers of attorney, advance health care directives, designation of beneficiaries for tribal housing, and the American Indian Probate Reform Act.

Sales tax does not apply when a car dealership transfers ownership of a vehicle to a Native American purchaser in Indian country, provided the Native American lives in Indian country. CILS assisted an individual with explaining to the car salesperson that it was not required for the Native American purchaser to live on the specific reservation where ownership transfers. CILS contacted the dealership and forwarded legal authority confirming the client’s position to the car salesman. The individual is going forward with purchasing the automobile by delivery in Indian Country although she does not live on the reservation where the vehicle will be delivered.

CILS successfully advocated on behalf of a tribal social services department to enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) placement preferences for a California Indian child in an out-of-state dependency court. Upon removal, the state child welfare agency initially placed an Indian child with a foster family that did not comply with ICWA placement preferences. CILS quickly advocated for the child to be moved to a tribal member placement that was the Tribe’s preferred placement. The child will maintain a familial relationship with a half-sibling. In preparation for filing a contested motion for change in placement, CILS advised the Tribe that the preferred placement should establish regular visitation with the child and assist in developing the child’s cultural connections with Tribe. A full evidentiary hearing occurred with the child welfare department, mother, father, and child’s current placement opposing Tribe’s motion to change the placement. Ultimately, CILS was successful, and the court granted the Tribe’s motion for change in placement. The child will now be connected and raised with his extended family, Tribe, and culture.

CILS successfully advocated on behalf of a tribal social services department for the county social services agency to utilize and bear the cost of using a Qualified Expert Witness (QEW) designated by the tribe. The county’s practice utilized one expert witness as the designated QEW on most of its ICWA cases. This county QEW was frequently unfamiliar with the particular tribe involved, the tribe’s position, or the tribe’s preferred and designated QEW. CILS successfully educated the county on QEW qualifications, and the county’s legal responsibility to provide and pay the reasonable costs of an appropriate expert witness. A contested hearing on the issue was avoided. The county contracted and paid for the tribe’s preferred and designated QEW, who was a true expert with firsthand knowledge of the tribe and its child-rearing practices.

CILS is actively working with a tribal government agency to review and update tribal law for child support cases and drafting policies and procedures for processing child support cases through its tribal court. Program implementation should begin in the next few years which will allow for a tribal process for enforcing child support cases under tribal jurisdiction.