CA Civil Rights Leaders Applaud Appointment of ACLU Attorney as U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge

December 4, 2000 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO–Edward M. Chen, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, has been appointed a United States District Court Magistrate for the San Francisco Division, the ACLU announced today.

“Not only is Ed Chen an extraordinary lawyer, with a deep commitment to justice and equality, his creativity and dedication have also strengthened our organization significantly,” said Dorothy Ehrlich, Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “His unique contributions in the areas of language rights and racial justice have helped the ACLU broaden our reach to fight discrimination in these arenas.”

Chen has worked at the ACLU of Northern California since 1985, litigating cases on issues ranging from drug testing and affirmative action, to “English Only” laws and the Fourth Amendment. A nationally renowned attorney on language rights, he has also litigated cases in Arizona, Utah, and Alabama. He is Co-Director of the Language Rights Project, which focuses on challenging language and accent discrimination.

Dale Minami of Minami, Lew & Tamaki, who worked with Chen on the successful case to overturn the wartime conviction of Fred Korematsu for defying President Roosevelt’s internment order, said, “Ed Chen’s appointment is of particular significant to Asian Pacific Americans throughout this country.

Chen is the first Asian Pacific American to serve as a magistrate of judge in the Northern District of California which, historically has been the home of the most famous (and infamous) Supreme Court decisions affecting Asian Pacific Americans as ethnic groups: Korematsu v. U.S., upholding the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II; Yick Wo v. Hopkins, striking down discriminatory laundry ordinances in San Francisco; Lau v. Nichols, mandating bilingual education programs; and Wong v. Hampton, striking down federal civil service rules excluding non-citizens from employment.

Maria Blanco, Regional Counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Civil Rights, also welcomed Chen’s appointment.

“We have worked together on many issues over the years,” she said, “from language rights, to health access for the poor, to equal opportunity in education for all of California’s children. In all of this work, Ed Chen has shown that his knowledge of the law is superb, his leadership on civil liberties issues is outstanding and his sense of fairness prevails over all.”

The ACLU’s Ehrlich added, “he will be missed at the ACLU not only for his legal brilliance, but for his witty, collegial and generous spirit. His genuine respect for all individuals and his overarching sense of fairness will serve him well on the bench.

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