August 2015                                                                                   Volume 1, Number 3
California's Indian Child Welfare Act
Celebrates 9th Anniversary
More than 100 federally recognized tribes are located in California, and it has the largest Native American population in the country. The latter is due to the 1950s federal policy of relocating Native American families to major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco in an attempt at assimilating them into the dominant society. As a result, many of the children and grandchildren of those who relocated continue to reside in this state. Because of the diversity and richness of California's Native population, CILS considers the welfare of Indian children to be a top priority.

As part of our commitment to Indian children, CILS helped push for revisions to state law to comport with federal protections already in existence. In August of 2006, the Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 678, which codified into state law the provisions of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. CILS, along with the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, spearheaded the initiative to protect California's Indian families.
In California, Indian children were more than eight times as likely as non-Indian children to be placed in adoptive homes

What is the Indian Child Welfare Act? The Act, often abbreviated as ICWA, is a law enacted by Congress in 1978 to establish minimum standards to apply in Indian child custody proceedings where the parent or Indian custodian cannot have their child returned on demand. The ICWA provides the child's tribe with certain rights, including notice of the proceedings, to intervene at any time, to transfer the matter to tribal court, and to ensure that the tribe's social and cultural standards are applied when meeting the ICWA's placement preferences. The ICWA is the baseline for standards to keep Indian families intact; states may pass their own heightened protections.

SB 678 added to and amended numerous sections of the Welfare and Institutions Code, Probate Code, Family Code, and Rules of Court dealing with children. It codified into state law not only various provisions of the ICWA, but also the Bureau of Indian Affairs Guidelines for State Courts. Prior to its enactment, the ICWA was applied inconsistently if at all on the state level. For example, state courts often favored adoption over guardianship as the permanent plan for Indian children, even though it required the termination of parental rights. Many tribes oppose state adoptions on this ground, fearing they will sever a child's tribal ties and identity.

Get your FREE copy of the ICWA Bench-
guide here:
Even though CILS and its partners succeeded in changing state law, uniform compliance remains elusive. Some social workers and even attorneys and judges lack complete understanding of this area of law. CILS is committed to increasing understanding of the law and ensuring adherence to its requirements. Our work towards those goals includes representing tribes in court proceedings, training people in the field, participating in statewide and countywide meetings, roundtable discussions, and educating family members and Indian custodians through self-help materials and our intake system. In 1998 CILS published the "California Judges Benchguide" as a resource for state court judges who preside over cases involving Indian children, with revisions published in 2000, 2010, and 2012. Our efforts, along with your support, will one day make compliance and understanding about Indian child welfare the norm rather than the exception.

Notice of Proposed Changes in ICWA Regulations of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS)
You are invited to attend the Indian Child Welfare Act Integration throughout Division 31 public hearing. The CDSS gave notice of the proposed regulatory action(s) described in the link below. Any person interested may present statements or arguments orally or in writing relevant to the proposed regulations at a public hearing to be held September 16, 2015, as follows: Office Building # 8, 744 P Street, Room 103, Sacramento, California. The public hearing will convene at 10:00 a.m. and will remain open only as long as attendees are presenting testimony. The purpose of the hearing is to receive public testimony. The Department will adjourn the hearing immediately following the completion of testimony presentations.
Bishop Paiute Tribe Case Against Inyo County, the Inyo County Sheriff and District Attorney is Dismissed
On July 13, 2015 District Court Judge Burrell Jr. dismissed the Bishop Paiute Tribe case against Inyo County, the Inyo County Sheriff and District Attorney for lack of jurisdiction. The Tribe's la w suit was filed after a tribal law enforcement officer was arrested and criminally charged for restraining and detaining, on December 24, 2014, a non-Indian on the reservation w ho was in violation of both a tribal and state domestic violence protection by being at the home of her estranged tribal member husband. The Tribe's law suit sought Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against the County and County officials re-affirming tribal inherent authority to stop, restrain, detain, and investigate violations of tribal, state, and federal law and to turn over non-Indians violators to proper law enforcement authorities.

The District Court's dismissal does not address the merits of the Tribe's law suit, but instead bases its  dismissal on procedural grounds. The Court found that the Tribe's January 2015 response to the Inyo County Sheriff's "Cease and Desist" Order removed the controversy between the parties, leaving the Court without jurisdiction to proceed with the case. The Tribe's January response to the "Cease and Desist" Order, took direct issue with the County's actions with regard to its law enforcement officer and the County's interpretation of tribal inherent authority and federal law over non-Indians. However, the Tribe agreed that its officers would not enforce California state law on the reservation, which the Tribe firmly believes its officers do and have not engaged in. Regardless, the Court found the Tribe's response to the County Sheriff resolves the issues between the parties.

Bishop Paiute Tribal Council Chairman Gerald Howard responded to dismissal of the case: "We are extremely disappointed in the decision by the court to dismiss our case on procedural grounds. It is unfortunate that the court could not hear the merits of our case. We look forward the appeal and feel confident that the appellate court will decide in our favor."

Dorothy Alther, Executive Director of California Indian Legal Services stated, "The Tribe is very disappointed in the District Court's dismissal. The Tribe is essentially back to where it started from. The fundamental question(s) raised in the Tribe's law suit have not been addressed and tribal law enforcement officers remain uncertain on whether they will be arrested and criminally prosecuted for performing their legal duties under tribal authority and defined by federal law. The Court's finding there is no "controversy" in the Tribe's case fails to acknowledge that a tribal police officer is still being prosecuted and there is no indication that future tribal officers won't be prosecuted."

The Tribe is preparing to appeal the District Court's dismissal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
California Indian Legal Services Welcomes
Summer Volunteer Kaitlyn Sever
CILS ' summer volunteer Kaitlyn Sever
CILS is pleased to have Kaitlyn Sever spending her summer break volunteering at the Escondido office. Kaitlyn's cheerful disposition and interest in all things related to federal Indian law have brightened up the building. Her contributions to the office include conducting research on the benefits and rights of state recognition for tribes and developing resource materials for Native American prisoners.

 "My time at CILS has primarily consisted of researching different issues and developing resource materials. My research has delved into the topics of unsealing birth records for tribal enrollment, scholarship opportunities, and the complexities of state recognition." Kaitlyn said when asked the scope of her volunteer work.

Kaitlyn developed an interest in federal Indian law and Public Law 280 in particular after spending a summer working on a collaborative project between the Riverside Metropolitan Museum and local Cahuilla tribes. She plans on making the topic the focus of her senior thesis. The Hadley, Massachusetts native is a dual major in Anthropology and American Studies at Brandeis University. She is slated to begin her senior year this fall and plans to attend law school after graduation.
Good Story about a California Tax Refund
Today, CILS's Escondido office Directing Attorney, Mark Vezzola, discovered that the California Franchise Tax Board decided to abate our client K.D.'s 2006 state income tax liability of almost $15,900.00 because he met the criteria for an exemption as an enrolled tribal member living and earning income on his tribe's reservation.
K.D., unaware of this exemption, dutifully made payments towards the tax assessment when he had extra income and even saw his p aychecks garnished several times. Eight years elapsed before K.D. contacted CILS who appealed the tax liability and requested a full refund.
The FTB invoked the one year statute of limitations on refunds which entitled him to a refund of only payments made within the last year, about $130.00. By showing that K.D.'s tax assessment was erroneous, his payments made in error and that he fell within an exception to the statute under the California Revenue and Taxation Code, however CILS secured K.D. a full refund totaling more than $4,000.00.
SDG&E Awards CILS a $7,500 Grant for Domestic Violence Legal Assistance
CILS is grateful to SDG&E for the recent gift of $7,500 to support CILS's Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Project that operates with its partners the Strong Hearted Native Women's Coalition and provides support to nine Indian reservations in north San Diego County including Rincon, Pauma, Mesa Grande, Santa Ysabel, La Jolla, San Pasqual, Los Coyotes, Pala, and Inaja/Cosmit. Penney Newell, Manager, Community Relations of San Diego Gas & Electric said, " It is SDG&E's privilege to help support the services that you provide."
Happy 48th California Indian Legal Services
June 26th, 2015, marked CILS's 48th Anniversary! It was on that very day in 1967 that George Duke, Richard Collins, Alan Galbraith & Neil Levy formally incorporated CILS as its own organization to address Native American issues in legal services.

CILS remains at the fore-front of assisting tribes in developing courts and law enforcement agencies by providing trainings, drafting codes and orchestrating statewide conferences. CILS remains attuned to the changing needs of Native communities in California. Our four offices- Bishop, Escondido, Eureka and Sacramento-serve all 58 counties in California.

We were here 48 years ago, we are here today and we will be here for decades to come providing legal services to California Indian country.

Providing representation in cases that involve issues unique to Native Americans .
These include:
 Individual trust allotments
 Will drafting and probate of Indian Land/trust assets
 Indian students' rights
 Civil rights related to race or Indian religion
 Indian income-related tax benefits and exemptions
 Tribal representation in  Indian Child Welfare Act cases
 Tribal customary adoption
 Eligibility of Indians for special benefits programs
"I greatly enjoy volunteering at CILS because of the passion of the employees. The staff here are so dedicated to helping Native American communities. In fact, this passion extends beyond legal matters. The employees completely invest themselves in all aspects of furthering Native American interests." 
Quote from Kaitlyn Sever, CILS' summer volunteer

Did You Know

When you support CILS, you support the rights of individual Native Americans and tribal self-determination, self-empowerment and justice. CILS's victories and accomplishments in Indian Country require your generous support. We encourage you to support our Indian legal advocacy efforts.

California Indian Legal Services

609 S. Escondido Blvd.
Escondido, CA 92025

Phone (760) 746-8941
Fax (760) 746-1815



Our mission is to protect and advance Indian rights, foster Indian self-determination, and facilitate tribal nation-building.

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