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From a 'Legal Organization of Militants' into a 'Law Firm for the Latino Community': MALDEF and the Purposive Cases of Keyes, Rodriguez, and Plyler

58 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2013  

Michael A. Olivas

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: September 23, 2013

Abstract

Keyes was the first school desegregation case decided by the Supreme Court that did not originate in a Southern city. Geography was its quintessence — not merely the line drawing and school assignment form — but its political geography and demography variant. In Denver, as was the case in most Southwestern cities, the number of Mexican Americans was as large or larger than the number of Black schoolchildren. In several important cases taken up at approximately the same time, Anglo community lawyers and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund lawyers took up important cases in desegregation (Keyes v. School District No. 1), bilingual education (Lau v. Nichols), and Texas school finance (San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez) without significant formal involvement by lawyers representing Latino interests. In part, this Article argues, it was a traditional blind spot in the Black-White legal theory that doomed the cases; even though the Chinese American plaintiffs prevailed in Lau, it was undertaken without significant Latino legal involvement. In addition, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund was not yet the major purposive legal organization it became in the next decade, when it won significant voting rights and immigrant education Supreme Court cases. However, it had already begun to undertake Tenth Circuit education litigation and was building its organizational capacity, and the failure of White lawyers in Denver and Texas to incorporate a Mexican American theory of the case contributed to an unsuccessful litigation strategy.

Keywords: litigation, education finance, school desegregation, undocumented students, purposive organizations

Suggested Citation

Olivas, Michael A., From a 'Legal Organization of Militants' into a 'Law Firm for the Latino Community': MALDEF and the Purposive Cases of Keyes, Rodriguez, and Plyler (September 23, 2013). 90 Denver University Law Review 1151 (2013); U of Houston Law Center No. 2013-A-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2329915

Michael A. Olivas (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States
713-743-2078 (Phone)
713-743-2085 (Fax)

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