In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 - Oct. 15, the lives and careers of four prominent Hispanic lawyers will be profiled on the Web site of the American Bar Association Division for Public Education.
These four individuals were chosen for their exemplary service to the community and legal profession and their professional record of groundbreaking achievements.
First to be profiled at http://www.abanet.org/publiced/hhm02.html is Adelfa Botello Callejo, a Dallas-based lawyer and community activist, who was one of the first Latinas to earn a law degree in the United States.
With an expressed intention to "be a poor people's lawyer" when she graduated from law school in 1961, Callejo was one of only three women and the only Hispanic student in her class. Fueled by her mission to achieve educational, economic, social and political equality for the underprivileged, Callejo has financed lawsuits, posted bail for jailed protestors, funded scholarships, and contributed to political campaigns.
To be profiled on the Web site in succeeding weeks will be:
-- Henry B. Gonzalez, the first Mexican American to represent Texas in the U.S. Congress. After earning his law degree from St. Mary's University, Gonzalez started his political career as a city councilman. Later he moved on to the Texas Senate, then to Congress where he served from 1961 - 1998. President Clinton described Gonzalez as "a man of conviction and humility who devoted his life to lifting people up and building bridges of understanding." During his legislative career, Gonzalez fought for social justice and equal economic opportunities. Gonzalez served as chair of the House Banking Committee from 1989 to 1994 and was credited with crafting tough savings and loan bailout legislation. He was also recognized for his interest in ensuring affordable housing for the poor.
-- Antonia Hernandez, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 1978 she became the first Latina to serve as staff counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1985 she was selected to head MALDEF, which works through law, community education and research to advance the rights of the 24 million Latinos in the United States. Herenandez, who earned a teaching certificate and law degree from University of California at Los Angeles, has played pivotal roles in expanding the rights of women and people of color. Her work was instrumental in advancing bilingual voting assistance in the extension of the Voting Rights Act.
-- Petra Jimenez Maes, who in 1998 became the first Latina appointed to serve on the New Mexico Supreme Court. She was appointed a judge of the First Judicial District in 1981 and became the first Family Court Judge in New Mexico after establishing the state's first Family Court in 1984. Maes introduced mediation in divorce cases to help resolve child custody issues. She was also named Latina Lawyer of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association in 1999.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 400,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.