Chinese immigrant gets posthumous California law license
March 17, 2015
The California Supreme Court posthumously granted a law license to a Chinese immigrant on Monday. [Mercury News]
California denied Hong Yen Chang a license to practice law nearly 125 years ago. Chang graduated Columbia Law School and received a license in New York through a special act of the legislature, but anti-Chinese and anti-immigrant statutes prohibited him from getting one in California.
“Even if we cannot undo history, we can acknowledge it and, in doing so, accord a full measure of recognition to Chang’s pathbreaking efforts to become the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States,” the Supreme Court stated in its ruling to award Chang the license.
Chang’s family tree of descendants is now filled with lawyers. Additionally, two Chinese-American justices currently sit on the state Supreme Court.
Last year, a group of UC Davis law students and professors asked the Supreme Court to overturn the old ruling against Chang. Both the State Bar and the California legislature adopted resolutions backing the request.
Prior to Monday’s ruling, two states granted posthumous law licenses to men previously denied because of their race. In 2001, Washington state granted a license to a Japanese immigrant who was denied one in 1902.
Pennsylvania did the same for an African American man who was denied a law license in 1847.