What's News

Civil liberties are dynamic. Clashes over conflicting perspectives on freedom, equality, and justice occur regularly in the Golden state. Visit this page for news on civil liberties developments throughout California and how they relate to our past.

California Supreme Court Posthumously Grants Law License to Chinese Immigrant

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
March 18, 2015
Courtesy Wikimedia

On March 16, 2015, a unanimous California Supreme Court posthumously granted a law licencse to Hong Yen Chang, a Chinese immigrant who unsuccessfully petitioned the state high court in 1890 for a licence to practice law.

The court in 1890 cited the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred virtually all immigration from China and denied Chinese immigrants naturalization rights, as well as anti-Chinese laws memorialized into the California constituion of 1879 as the basis for its denial.

Chang arrived in the United States in 1872 when he was 13 to study.  He eventually attended Yale and earned a degree from Columbia Law School in 1886. He sat for the New York bar exam by special act of the legislature. When he was admitted to the New York state bar, the New York Times reported that Chang was the first Chinese immigrant admitted to any bar in the United States.

In 1890, he moved to California to work in San Francisco's Chinese community as an attorney. At the time, discrimination against Chinese immigrants was rampant.  In 1879, California voters ratified a new state constitution that denied Chinese the right to vote, prohibited the employment of Chinese by corporations or on public works except in punishment for a crime, and authorized cities to require Chinese to live outside city limits or only in segregated neighborhoods.

Through a series of federal court cases, Chinese plaintiffs were able to invalidate most of the anti-Chinese provisions. But it took almost a century for the last of the 1879 anti-Chinese constitutional provisions to be removed from the books by a statewide ballot initiative.

In 2014, members of the UC Davis Law School's Asian Pacific American Law Students Association asked the Califonria Supreme Court to award Chang his law license, pointing out that the laws that prevented him from practicing as an attorney have been discredited and repealed and asking the court to right the historic wrong against Chang.

Learn More


LA Board of Supervisors Approves Settlement for Photographers Detained by Sheriff's Deputies

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
March 5, 2015
Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/89463420@N00/5159520498/">J

On March 3, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement with three photographers who were detained by L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies while shooting photos in public places.

The photographers, Shawn Nee, Greggory Moore and Shane Quentin, filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the county and individual deputies charging that the deputies violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights by detaining, searching and questioning them for taking photographs of Metro Rail turnstiles, oil refineries and traffic in front of a court house.

The settlement includes $50,000 in damages for the photographers and implements training for deputies interacting with photographers or members of the public who are taking photos in public places.

The training details LASD policy that members of the public “have a First Amendment right to observe, take photographs, and record video in any public place where they are lawfully present” and prohibits deputies from “interfering, threatening, intimidating, blocking or otherwise discouraging” photographers from taking photos or video unless they are violating a law.

The training also makes clear that members of the public “have the right to photograph and record video of peace officers engaged in the public discharge of their duties” so long as they “are in a place they have a legal right to be present,” and forbids LASD deputies from requiring any person to show pictures or video without a warrant, or from deleting or destroying any photographic, audio or video recording under any circumstances.

In recent years many law enforcement agencies, including LASD, have instituted “suspicious activity reporting” programs designed to train officers to report certain activities believed to have a potential link to terrorism. Many departments include photography among the activities that should be reported.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Immigration Case

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
February 24, 2015
Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/69326519@N00/2221189566/">m

On February 23, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Fauzia Din, a U.S. citizen living in Fremont, who sued the federal government for denying a visa to her Afghan citizen husband and refusing to explain why.

In 1998, after the Taliban came to power, Din and her mother and sister fled Afghanistan and came to the U.S. as refugees.

In 2006, Din traveled to Afghanistan to marry a family friend. Soon after her wedding, she applied for her husband’s visa to the U.S. After a nearly three-year delay, the State Department denied the visa, offering no reason other than a vague “national security” allegation.  Ms. Din is an in-home caretaker. Her husband is a clerk in the Afghan Ministry of Education.

The State Department has insisted it has the right to deny visas without providing a reason.

In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Kerry v. Din that the State Department was required to provide a legitimate basis for the denial. However, the Obama Administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

During Din's nine-year struggle to secure her husband's visa, dozens of family members, friends, and coworkers have vouched that he has no ties to any terrorist activity.

Learn More