Friday, September 18, 2009
Former Villaraigosa Advisor Saenz Rejoins MALDEF
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Civil rights attorney Thomas A. Saenz, former counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has taken office as the new president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the group announced.
MALDEF’s Board of Directors said Wednesday that its appointment of Saenz, who previously conducted civil rights litigation with the group for 12 years and stepped down from his post as an advisor to Villaraigosa earlier this year, had taken effect.
Saenz began serving as counsel to Villaraigosa in 2005, and was a member of the mayor’s four-person executive team providing legal and policy advice on major initiatives. He helped lead the mayor’s legislative effort to change the governance of the Los Angeles Unified School District and served as Villaraigosa’s lead liaison on labor negotiations.
“Throughout its 40-year history, MALDEF has been a national leader on all legal and policy issues affecting the Latino community,” Saenz said. “I look forward to working with a very strong MALDEF staff in successfully addressing the next set of challenges facing what is now the largest minority group in this country, a group whose progress is essential to our nation’s success.”
Born and reared in Southern California, Saenz was admitted to the State Bar in 1992. He attended college and law school at Yale University before serving as a law clerk to the U.S. District Judge Harry L. Hupp of the Central District of California and Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt.
Saenz joined MALDEF as a staff attorney in 1993, and became Los Angeles regional counsel three years later. In 2000, he was elevated to national senior counsel and he became vice president of litigation the following year, where he oversaw MALDEF’s efforts nationwide to pursue civil rights litigation in the areas of education, employment, political access, immigrants’ rights and public resource equity.
While at MALDEF, Saenz served as lead counsel in numerous civil rights cases, successfully challenging California’s Proposition 187 in court, and leading two court challenges to Proposition 227, the English-only education initiative that voters enacted in 1998.
Saenz also successfully challenged several ordinances barring day laborers from soliciting employment and served as lead counsel in MALDEF’s challenge to California’s congressional redistricting in 2001.
He taught “Civil Rights Litigation” as an adjunct lecturer at the U.S.C. Law School for eight years, and currently serves on the Los Angeles County Board of Education. Saenz also previously served on the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
Saenz was reportedly a leading candidate for appointment by President Obama as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. News stories said he may have lost out for fear that his past aggressive advocacy on immigrants’ rights would make the nomination overly controversial.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company