Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, November 13, 2006


Page 1


New MALDEF President Promises Growth


By a MetNews Staff Writer


y a MetNews Staff Writer

Los Angeles civil rights litigator John Trasviña, newly installed president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Friday that he plans to lead the locally-based organization into a season of growth.

“The Latino community nationwide has grown 100 percent since 1990, from 22 million to 45 million, and MALDEF must grow in order to be able to preserve Latinos around the country,” he told the MetNews.  One of his initiatives would be to partner with law firms nationwide to enhance MALDEF’s services to the community, he said, adding that equipping Latinos would benefit not only them but the nation’s community and economy as a whole.

Trasviña, 47, who had been MALDEF’s interim president and general counsel starting this March, was named to the top post in a permanent capacity last Wednesday.  His tenure as the organization’s sixth president was officially launched Thursday night at its annual fundraising dinner in Pasadena.

“It’s an incredible time to be head of an important organization like this one, and there’s much to accomplish,” he said, adding that a “new day” has begun for Latinos after mid-term elections left pro-immigrant senators and congress members undefeated and the House of Representatives in Democratic control.

The 750 annual dinner attendees, who included State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Congressman Javier Becerra, State Sen. Jack Scott, Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and retired Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, expressed “tremendous enthusiasm and excitement over the process of real progress in Washington” in the area of immigration reform, he said.

“The President and Senate had already been on record along the lines that we support but the House [of Representatives] was against it, and now the House has changed hands,”  he remarked.  “The ones who have been supportive of us are still in Washington.  They now have greater power and authority.” 

While immigration reform is its highest priority, MALDEF is also interested locally in the mayor’s initiative to improve Los Angeles schools, Trasviña said. 

Statewide kindergarten enrollment is now 50 percent Latino, he explained, and the organization must have “2020 vision”—ensuring these children are fully equipped to shape the future of California in the year 2020, when most will have attained voting age, completed high school and moving into college.

MALDEF’s other efforts would include continued support of diversity on the bench, he added.

University of Houston Law Center Professor Michael A. Olivas, who chaired the MALDEF board of directors’ search committee, said Trasviña’s selection came after a thorough nationwide search that included input from lawyers, civil rights groups, and legislators.

Board Chairman Frank Quevedo, also a member of the search committee, agreed that Trasviña possessed all of the experience, training, temperament and intellect that demanded by his new role.

Prior to becoming MALDEF’s interim leader, Trasviña was its senior vice president for law and policy, a post he held since last July.  He had previously served as MALDEF’s legislative counsel in Washington, D.C., from 1985-1987.

Before rejoining MALDEF, Trasviña directed the Discrimination Research Center in Berkley and Los Angeles and in 2004 was appointed to serve as western regional director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 

From 2002-2003, he taught immigration law at Stanford University Law School,  where he earned his degree 1983 after graduating from Harvard University in 1980.

In 1997, he was appointed by then-President Clinton and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate to serve as Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  He served in that post for five years as the department’s highest-ranking Latino attorney.

Trasviña also served as general counsel and staff director for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution from 1987-1993.

He began his career as a deputy city attorney in San Francisco in 1983, the year he was admitted to the State Bar.


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company