Munger Tolles Secures Immigrant Lawyer’s Posthumous Admission to California Bar

Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP attorneys secured the posthumous admission of Hong Yen Chang, a Chinese immigrant who was denied a law license in 1890 based on race, to the State Bar of California. On March 16, 2015, the California Supreme Court unanimously granted a motion to admit Mr. Chang, a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, when he was originally denied a law license because he was not entitled to U.S. citizenship under the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Working on behalf of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Munger Tolles attorneys Jeffrey L. Bleich, Benjamin J. Horwich and Joshua Meltzer filed a motion in 2014 petitioning the California Supreme Court to posthumously admit Mr. Chang. In its decision admitting Mr. Chang, the California Supreme Court acknowledged that the exclusion of Mr. Chang from the state bar was a “grievous wrong” and wrote: “Even if we cannot undo history, we can acknowledge it, and in so doing, accord a full measure of recognition to Chang’s path-breaking efforts to become the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States.”

Munger Tolles attorneys joined the members of the California Supreme Court and the Trustees of the California State Bar in a special ceremony presenting Mr. Chang’s posthumous law license to his family. In recognition of our attorneys’ work, Mr. Chang’s family presented the firm with an inscribed edition of “Bury My Bones in America: The Saga of a Chinese Family in California,” a book that recounts Mr. Chang’s life.

The matter received significant U.S. and international press coverage, including by NPR, BBC and Bloomberg.

The California Supreme Court’s decision can be found here.