Correcting an Injustice
(The Guardian) - A California court has overturned the decision to grant Hong Yen Chang the right to practice in the state 125 years after refusing him admission on grounds of race.
In a sweet ending to an American dream denied, a Chinese immigrant will posthumously receive a California law license 125 years after the state bar refused to admit him because of his race.
On Monday, the state’s highest court unanimously agreed to grant Hong Yen Chang admission to the state bar, overturning a 1890 court decision that denied the Columbia law school graduate the right to practice in the state.
“Even if we cannot undo history, 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 unsigned ruling said.
“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,” the ruling said.
In 1890, the state supreme court found that even though Chang was qualified to practice law – and was allowed to in the state of New York – he was ineligible for admission to the California bar, based on a provision of the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that denied citizenship to Chinese immigrants.
Rachelle Chong, the great-grand niece of Chang and a prominent lawyer in San Francisco, said the family has known about her great-uncle’s plight for decades but no one ever expected the case would be reversed.
“We are just so flattered and thrilled,” Chong told the Guardian.
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|A 19th Century California Chinese family|