684 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 5 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE
1882 under which “courts are expressly forbidden to issue certificates of naturalization
to any native of China.”
Though unsuccessful in his attempt to be admitted to the California bar,
Chang carried on to have many notable accomplishments. He spent time as
an advisor at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, as a banker, as a law
professor in China, as Chinese consul in Vancouver, as first secretary at the
Chinese Legation in Washington, D.C. and as the director of Chinese naval
students at Berkeley. In 1897 Chang married Charlotte Ah Tye, who had
been born in California and was a social worker, and they had a daughter
and son. Both children obtained bachelor’s degrees from the University of
California. Chang retired in 1920 and died in 1926.
Surviving members of the Chang family include several California
lawyers. Chang’s grand-niece was the first Asian-American member of the
Federal Communications Commission and of the California Public Utilities
Students in the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
(together with their faculty adviser) at the University of California, Davis
worked to have Chang admitted posthumously to the California bar. The
association’s work started in 2011, seeking relief directly from the State Bar
of California (the administrative arm of the California Supreme Court), but
that administrative body determined it did not have the authority to grant
posthumous admission. The students then enlisted lawyers (including a
former president of the State Bar of California) at the firm Munger, Tolles &
Olson LLP, who filed a motion with the California Supreme Court in late
2014 seeking this relief; the lawyers acted on a pro bono basis.
As the court had not previously granted posthumous admission, there
was not a regular process to follow, but on March 16, 2015, the court unanimously
granted the request.
In doing so, the court undertook what it called “a candid reckoning with
a sordid chapter of our state and national history” that formed the backdrop
to its 1890 decision to refuse admission. It described at length the “hostility”,
“cultural tension” and outright “xenophobia” that had gripped the state, and
the result of those forces at both the state and federal levels.
At the state level, the California Legislature “enacted a raft of laws
designed to disadvantage Chinese immigrants”, with various of those laws
and government actions challenged but upheld by the court at the time.
Anti-Chinese sentiment also shaped the California Constitution in 1879,
whose contents in turn emboldened legislators to enact further anti-Chinese
legislation. In 1879, the electorate ratified constitutional provisions
that “denied the right to vote to any ‘native of China’ alongside any ‘idiot,