Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF): Background
MALDEF was incorporated by a group of attorneys committed to protecting the civil rights of an emerging, nationally significant population. The early leaders in MALDEF were later appointed by governors and presidents to more globally serve the United States. Among these were James De Anda, who was appointed to serve as a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas; Pete Tijerina, who served in the Texas legislature; Mario Obledo, who was appointed secretary of health and welfare in California; Dan Sosa, who later served as a justice on the Supreme Court of New Mexico; Carlos Cadena, who later became an appellate court judge in Texas; Gregory Luna, who served in the Texas senate; and Alex Armendariz, who became an immigration judge in El Paso. MALDEF’s former executive director and its general counsels transitioned into private practice and served on prominent private corporate boards. MALDEF has become a national organization that provides opportunities for service-oriented lawyers to protect the civil rights of its constituents while distinguishing themselves as leaders.
MALDEF was incorporated in Texas but expanded throughout the United States, where significant numbers of Latinos have emerged. Originally headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, the organization expanded to include offices in Los Angeles (now the national headquarters), Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. MALDEF operates on a substantial annual budget that is supported by private national fundraising efforts and attorney’s fees. Its emerging corporate image is that of a self-sufficient organization that engages in responsible fundraising and meets its management goals. The organization has development efforts to provide ongoing financial and public support.
Original MALDEF litigation focused on education, employment, and police brutality cases of the 1960s and the 1970s. Litigation became more focused under the leadership of Mario Obledo, who targeted Supreme Court cases by filing friend-of-the-court briefs.