A Chinese immigrant denied a California law license in 1890 because of his race will receive one posthumously, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday.
An Asian student law association at UC Davis asked the state’s highest court to “right this historic wrong” by admitting Hong Yen Chang to the California bar.
The court in 1890 found Chang qualified to practice law, but refused him admission because a federal law at that time barred “persons of the Mongolian race” from citizenship. At the time, only citizens or people eligible for citizenship could receive a California law license.
“More than a century later, the legal and policy underpinnings of our 1890 decision have been discredited,” the court said.
“Even if we cannot undo history,” the ruling said, “we can acknowledge it and, in so doing, accord a full measure of recognition to Chang’s pathbreaking efforts to become the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States.
“The people and the courts of California were denied Chang’s services as a lawyer,” said the unsigned ruling. “But we need not be denied his example as a pioneer for a more inclusive legal profession. In granting Hong Yen Chang posthumous admission to the California Bar, we affirm his rightful place among the ranks of persons deemed qualified to serve as an attorney and counselor at law in the courts of California.”
Today, the California Supreme Court has three Asian American justices, one Latino, one African America and two white women. Only last year, the state bar gave a law license to a Mexican immigrant without a green card.
The law school’s Asian Pacific American Law Students Assn. filed the motion to have Chang admitted. Although posthumous admissions are rare, courts in other states have permitted them.
Chang got his law degree from Columbia University and obtained a law license in New York and moved to San Francisco. After the California Supreme Court barred him from practicing law, Chang had a successful diplomatic and financial career.
Chang emigrated from China in 1872 as part of an educational program to teach Chinese youth about the West and attended prestigious schools in the East.
After graduating from law school, Chang applied for a law license in New York.
That state turned him down because he was not a U.S. citizen. A New York judge then granted him naturalization, and the state Legislature passed a law permitting him to reapply.
The New York bar admitted him in 1888, making him the first Chinese lawyer in the nation.
Chang then moved to California. In denying him a law license, the California Supreme Court said the New York judge’s decision naturalizing Chang violated the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
The anti-Chinese law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, barred citizenship for “persons of the Mongolian race” and imposed a 10-year ban on Chinese immigration.
“Courts are expressly forbidden to issue certificates of naturalization to any native of China,” the California Supreme Court said at the time.
Understanding that decision “requires a candid reckoning with a sordid chapter of our state and national history,” the court said Monday, citing a litany of discriminatory actions taken against the Chinese in California.
Many Chinese people came to California during the Gold Rush and eventually began competing with non-Chinese for jobs.
“Hostility toward Chinese labor, together with cultural tensions and xenophobia, prompted the California Legislature to enact a raft of laws designed to disadvantage Chinese immigrants,” the court said.
The anti-Chinese laws eventually were repealed, and the California Supreme Court in 1972 struck down citizenship requirements for obtaining a California law license.
“It is past time to acknowledge that the discriminatory exclusion of Chang from the State Bar of California was a grievous wrong,” the court said Monday.
The court called Chang’s exclusion “a blow to countless others who, like Chang, aspired to become a lawyer only to have their dream deferred on account of their race, alienage, or nationality.”
“And it was a loss to our communities and to society as a whole, which denied itself the full talents of its people and the important benefits of a diverse legal profession,” the court said.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
11:04 a.m.: This post has been updated with background, additional information from the ruling.
10:06 a.m.: This post has been updated to quote from the California Supreme Court ruling.
This post was originally published at 10:01 a.m.
Source Article from http://www.latimes.com/about/la-me-ln-chinese-lawyer-20150316-story.html?track=rss
Chinese immigrant, denied law license in 1890, gets one posthumously
immigrant – Yahoo News Search Results
immigrant – Yahoo News Search Results