Calif. Court Mulls Reversal of Century-old Racist Ruling

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court is mulling whether to reverse a 125-year-old decision to deny a Chinese immigrant’s application to practice law in the state.

The court will decide Monday whether to reverse the ruling denying Hong Yen Chang a license to practice law. The Chinese immigrant died in 1926.

In a decision still studied in law schools today as a 19th century lesson in bigotry, the court in 1890 denied the Yale University-educated Chang’s application to practice law solely because he was Chinese. The court 125 years ago cited the federal Chinese Exclusion Act and a California law prohibiting noncitizens from practicing law.

Students and two professors at the University of California, School of Law took up Chang’s cause last year and petitioned the Supreme Court, which licenses California’s lawyers.