A group of law students at UC Davis are fighting for the rights of an Asian American attorney who was denied the opportunity to practice law in California due to discrimination more than a century ago.
Law students seek to right historic wrong with posthumous California Bar admission of Chinese lawyer
Students with the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) at UC Davis are pushing for the posthumous admission of Hong Yen Chang to the California State Bar. Chang was denied a license to practice law in California in 1890. Because, in case you didn't know, California laws were f*cking racist in 1890.
Chang, who earned his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1886, was admitted to the New York state bar in 1886 -- the first Chinese immigrant admitted to any bar in the United States. But when he moved to California to practice in San Francisco, exclusionary laws barred him from earning his law license in the state.
Chang attended Yale as part of the Chinese Educational Mission, a pioneering program initiated by the Chinese government. He then left the United States and later returned on his own to study law. He earned a degree from Columbia Law School in 1886 and sat for the New York bar exam by special act of the legislature. When he was admitted to the New York state bar, The New York Times reported that Chang was the first Chinese immigrant admitted to any bar in the United States. In 1890, he came to California with the intention of serving San Francisco’s Chinese community as an attorney.Props to these students, advised by Professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin, who are working to ensure that the story of Hong Yen Chang, and the story of California's shameful, racist laws, are not forgotten. Obviously, Chang's admission to the state bar would be symbolic -- a bold repudiation of the state discriminatory past.
At that time, the federal Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese immigrants from naturalizing as citizens, and a California law prohibited noncitizens from practicing law in the state. Taken together, these laws made it impossible for people of Chinese descent to earn law licenses in the state. Chang petitioned the California Supreme Court, but was denied admission.
Right this wrong, California.
More here: UC Davis law students seek to right a wrong
UPDATE: The students behind this effort have started an online petition to the State Bar of California to ask for Hong Yen Chang's posthumous admission to the bar. Sign it here: Please grant posthumous admission to Hong Yen Chang, a Chinese lawyer who was denied admission in 1890 because of the Chinese Exclusion Act