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September 2018                                                                           Volume 4, Number 15
CILS Defends Tribal Casinos in Slip and Fall Cases
Protection from Tort Claims
Did you know that California Indian Legal Services defends tribal casinos in slip and fall cases? Under state gaming compacts gaming tribes must carry liability insurance to cover accidents and mishaps that befall casino patrons. Gaming tribes must also have in place regulations governing the tort claim appeal process after the tribe's insurance company denies a claim. Some tribal gaming regulations send tort claims into tribal court. Others submit them to arbitration before a third party like the American Arbitration Association or JAMS.

Mark A.  Vezzola, Esq.
Directing Attorney
of CILS' Escondido office handles tort claims.
Tribal casinos are important assets. Not only are they investments in real estate and infrastructure, but they also generate revenue that can be used to fund tribal programs like social services, housing, government operations, and elder care. Protect your tribal asset by letting CILS do the work for you. Once a casino insurer denies a claim, there is usually a procedure for the patron or claimant to appeal it. That is when CILS can step in and defend the tribal casino. CILS attorneys conduct their own investigations, engage in discovery with claimant's attorney, and argue the case in tribal court or before an arbitrator. CILS has a strong track record of getting claims dismissed, reducing exposure to liability, and negotiating low settlements.
Senior Staff Attorney Jay Petersen is providing regional education presentations for Indian allottees whose allotments are in the public domain. The presentation "Public Domain Allotments" informs the allotees' of their rights, ability to will their interests, and how to protect their land from trespass and other encroachments. The presentations have been well attended. Presentations have occurred in Bishop, Big Sandy and Oroville. A future presentation is being planned for Wednesday, October 3rd at Redding Rancheria. 

Free Walk-in Legal Clinics at Indian Health in San Diego County
CILS offers free walk-in legal clinics from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm on the second Wednesday of each month at Indian Health Council on the Rincon Indian Reservation and fourth   Wednesday of each month at the Southern Indian Health Council in Alpine. These clinics are staffed by a Legal Advocate and Attorney who will assist with issues pertaining to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and sex trafficking. Services include helping with safety planning and crisis intervention; assistance with filling out Restraining Orders; Restraining Order Hearing preparation; and other legal consultations relating to victimization.  

The walk-in clinics operate on a first come, first served basis. There are no income guidelines for assistance. The Legal Advocate and Attorney are very experienced in these areas of law, provide trauma victims with informed, confidential, and culturally appropriate services.

  CILS Program Highlights 

CILS and the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians completed a one-day training for tribes on "Formation Economic Development Entity" on June 27th at the Picayune Reservation.

CILS gave a P.L. 280 presentation at the Tule River Reservation on July 9th and 10th.

CILS presented at the Owens Valley Career Development Center to a Native American class on "Tribal Law/Policy/History" on August 30th.

CILS provided training at Toiyabe Indian Health Care Elders Conference on "Medicare Improvement for Patient and Providers Act (MIPPA)" on June 6th.

CILS co-hosted a webinar training with CAST regarding American Indian/Alaska Native communities to address human trafficking on July 24th.

CILS conducted three tribal elections for Southern California tribes this summer.

CILS provided training at the Karuk Tribe for Domestic Violence Advocates and is working with the Court under a DOJ DV grant to provide legal guidance to DV Advocates who are assisting victims both in tribal and state court.  


Senior Program Highlights
Advocate Adora Bissonette with oversight by Executive Director Dorothy Alther were successful in stopping harassing contact from a residential housing complex made to our senior client for an alleged debt of $90.00. Our client had moved out of the complex over a year before, but the management company claimed she owed the money for cleaning costs to the unit. After considerable demands for the documentation, the company determined they owed our client over $200.00 and refunded the check to her.  

ICWA Caregiver Success
In 2015, an Indian child was removed from her Indian parent by Los Angeles County due to domestic violence and drug related offenses. The Indian child's Tribe retained CILS to represent its interests in the state court case. While the Indian parent was offered reunification services from the State and support services from the Tribe, she was not able to address the issues that brought the Indian child into care. The Tribe and the State worked together to find a relative placement for the Indian child. This year, with support of the Tribe, the Indian child was adopted by relative caregivers.

No Taxes Due for Tribal Member
Executive Director Dorothy Alther and California Bar Association Legal Fellow Anna Hohag were successful in having the Franchise Tax Board drop all collect action for state corporation taxes on income earned by a tribally chartered corporation that was owned by a Bishop tribal member who operated his business on the Bishop 
reservation where he also lives.  We successfully argued that the client's income, including the corporation income, was earned on his Reservation and because it was a tribally charted corporation it was exempt from state income and corporation tax.

Blood Quantum Clarity
Our Sacramento office was successful in getting the BIA to reverse a prior decision on a client's blood quantum. The BIA had told the client they had a policy of relying on the rolls compiled under the 1928 CA Judgement Act, considering those rolls the most reliable evidence of a person's blood quantum because the records were either personally verified or were verified by the local BIA Superintendent. However, the 1928 rolls only noted whether someone was full-blooded, ¼ or more, or less than ¼. The "verification" by Superintendents was also often a blanket document covering hundreds of individuals at once, calling into question the Superintendent's personal knowledge of any particular person.

The 1928 rolls noted our client's grandmother as only "¼+." The BIA initially said that meant they had to treat her as ¼, since the rolls did not elaborate further on what the "+" may have been. The client had evidence from other sources (previous Censuses, BIA probate records) showing that her grandmother was ½. Based on our arguments and the client's evidence, the BIA reversed its prior decision and acknowledged the grandmother as ½, which should enable the client to enroll in her Tribe. 

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California Indian Legal Services