A Historic Second Chance for Justice for Hong Yen Chang

May 27, 2014

SACRAMENTO – More than 120 years ago, Hong Yen Chang – a Columbia Law School graduate and a member of the New York state bar – moved to California, hoping to serve San Francisco’s Chinese community as an attorney. But he was denied admission into the State Bar of California solely because of his race.

To rectify this long-standing injustice, the Senate today unanimously passed SR 46, introduced by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, urging the State Bar of California to recommend to the California State Supreme Court that Mr. Chang be granted a posthumous law license.

“Some people may question why we should redress an injustice that occurred in 1890,’’ Beall said. “My reply is that history matters. By granting Mr. Chang a law license, we are saying California will not tolerate discrimination against immigrants.’’

Beall introduced Senate Resolution 46 after learning about the campaign led by the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association at UC Davis to get Mr. Chang a law license.

Mr. Chang, who also attended Yale, was able to obtain a New York law license after the New York State Legislature approved a special act that enabled him to take the bar exam, which he passed. At the time, the New York Times said Mr. Chang was the first Chinese immigrant to practice law in the U.S.

However, his hope of serving as an attorney in California was thwarted when the state Supreme Court rejected his application because of the federal Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese immigrants from being naturalized citizens.

The resolution is co-authored by Sens. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge.