‘Grievous Wrong’ Righted: Munger Tolles Wins Pro Bono Award

For its work obtaining posthumous California bar admission for a Chinese immigrant who lived in the late 1800s, Munger, Tolles & Olson is being honored by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County (APABA).

APABA’s Public Service Award honors Munger Tolles, UC Davis law professor Gabriel “Jack” Chin and the UC Davis School of Law’s Asian Pacific American Law Students Association for their work on behalf of Hong Yen Chang.

Mr. Chang, a Chinese immigrant, was denied a law license by the State Bar of California in 1890 based on race. Working on behalf of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Munger Tolles attorneys Benjamin J. Horwich and Joshua Meltzer filed a motion in 2014 petitioning the California Supreme Court to posthumously admit Mr. Chang.

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.

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 was recognized at APABA’s 2016 Installation Dinner on Feb. 26, 2016 which featured keynote speakers Judge Denny Chin of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California.