HNBA Unveils Hernández v. Texas Educational Video

February 17, 2010

Washington, D.C. – The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) is proud to unveil a two-part video and moot court re-enactment of Hernández v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954), a landmark Supreme Court case. In this 1954 decision (decided two weeks before Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)), Chief Justice Earl Warren held for a unanimous Supreme Court that Mexican Americans, including all Hispanics, in the United States had equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This little-known case was the first case argued before the Supreme Court by the late Gus Garcia and Carlos Cadena, who led a team of five Mexican American lawyers to challenge Jim Crow-de facto discrimination against Mexicans and other Latinos that existed in the Southwestern U.S. states. The Hernández case is still precedent and cited today in Supreme Court cases.

“Gus Garcia and Carlos Cadena are historic giants amongst Latino lawyers – they played a vital and instrumental role in the early development of civil rights law in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. It is important for us to remember where we have been as a community in order to continue to empower the Hispanic legal community today,” said Mr. Donato Tapia, producer/director of the video and the Co-Chair of the HNBA History Committee. “It is important for us to remember the legal battles fought on behalf of our community because we have legal rights today that we did not always have but for the legal challenges led by a small group of lawyers at a pivotal moment in our Nation’s history. As this important decision highlights, the civil rights movement had Latino lawyers at the forefront,” said Román D. Hernández, HNBA National President.

Members of the HNBA History Committee include founders and past national Presidents of the Association. The Committee is committed to preserving the history of the HNBA as well as the legacy of Latinos in the legal profession. The video features several Committee members including HNBA Historian, The Honorable Francisca Cota, Phoenix Municipal Criminal Court Judge; The Honorable Cruz Reynoso, ret., a founder of the HNBA and the first Latino Justice to serve on the California Supreme Court; HNBA founder and HNBA Past President, The Honorable Lorenzo Arredondo, Lake Circuit Court Judge; Donato Tapia, a founder of the HNBA and Federal Investigator/attorney with the U.S. Department of Education; HNBA Past President, Victor M. Márquez; A. Baltazar Baca, a founder of the HNBA and Senior Counsel at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice; and The Honorable Lupe S. Salinas, ret., Professor of Law at Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, former District Court judge, and Chair of the HNBA Civil Rights Section.

The Moot Court portion of the video is based on the PBS documentary ‘A Class Apart’, featuring a panel with IMAGEN award winning producer/director Carlos Sandoval. The panel discussion also features The Honorable Cruz Reynoso; The Honorable Charles Z. Smith, ret., the first Cuban-African-American Justice on the Washington State Supreme Court; and The Honorable Lorenzo Arredondo, the longest serving Hispanic judge in the United States, among others.

The HNBA video was filmed entirely during the 2009 HNBA Annual Convention and First Judicial Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Major funding for the video was provided by the generosity of McCarter and English, LLP. Additional funding was provided by The Honorable María P. Rivera, Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeals; Ricardo Aponte-Parsi, HNBA Vice President of Committees; The Honorable Lorenzo Arredondo; and Joe Torres, Director of the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, along with generous support from the American Constitution Society (ACS).

A copy of the video will be available for viewing on the HNBA’s websites shortly.