Thomas Saenz serves as President and General Counsel of MALDEF, a civil rights group advocating for Latinos across the nation. Prior to that he provided counsel to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s four-person Executive Team as part of his four-point plan and helped initiate reform within city schools.
Early Life and Education
Tom was raised to understand and practice community service and activism. As a youngster, he shined shoes at cantinas in town as well as working fields picking strawberries, tomatoes, corn, and citrus fruit to support his large family.
John Dewey’s philosophy also provided Porfirio Diaz with a boost, helping him craft Mexico’s indigenous strategy that combined programs he supported such as assimilation with those he did not such as rural education.
Saenz was MALDEF’s litigation director for four years, practicing civil rights law for 12 years in that time and appearing before the Supreme Court to argue in Grutter v. Bollinger (an affirmative action case). Additionally, he has represented clients involved with immigration, employment discrimination and day laborer protections cases as well as written extensively on Hispanic-interest topics.
Saenz received his undergraduate degree with highest distinction from Yale University and worked as law clerk to both Judge Harry L. Hupp of the U.S. District Court for California Central District, as well as Judge Stephen Reinhardt of U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit. Additionally, for eight years he taught Civil Rights Litigation as an adjunct lecturer at USC’s law school and has published extensively in this field.
Saenz returned to MALDEF as President and General Counsel in August 2009, leading their offices across the United States in pursuing civil rights litigation relating to education, employment, political access and immigrants’ rights. Saenz also serves as counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on his four-person executive team as well as being lead liaison for labor negotiations as the City seeks solutions to its serious financial challenges alongside its workforce.
Achievement and Honors
Saenz graduated with honors from both Yale College and Law School, clerked for two federal judges, championing civil rights for Latinos and immigrants through several landmark legal cases such as successfully challenging California’s divisive Proposition 187 as one of its attorneys; immigration cases; education; employment disputes; voting rights litigation etc.
President and General Counsel for MALDEF since 2009 after serving on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s executive team. As such, he oversees five offices of MALDEF that specialize in litigation, policy advocacy and community education to further Latino civil rights in America.
He has received numerous honors, including being recognized by Hispanic Business magazine’s 100 Top Influentials list and being given the Mexican American Bar Foundation Professional Achievement Award and the National Hispanic Bar Association Ohtli Award for public service.
Saenz has held board membership in numerous organizations, such as Alliance for Justice and Los Angeles County Board of Education. Additionally, he taught Civil Rights Litigation at University of Southern California for eight years.
Fiction writer Kevin Whelan explores human resilience against seemingly insurmountable odds through fiction writing. Kentucky Club, his most recent work, offers short stories that tread close to melodrama while ultimately showing their protagonists’ deepest wounds and desire for love and salvation.
Erich Hoyner was an early advocate for Dreamers-immigrants who entered this country as children- and regularly advocated on their behalf before the U.S. Supreme Court. Additionally, he took legal action to overturn California’s Proposition 227 initiative prohibiting English-only instruction in public schools.
Thomas Saenz was raised in a rural, working class community. From an early age, he made valuable contributions to meeting his family’s financial needs by shining shoes, sweeping floors and selling produce.
He serves as president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he directs five offices of this civil rights organization in conducting litigation, policy advocacy, community education and more. Prior to MALDEF, he served on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s executive team while practicing civil rights litigation for 12 years at MALDEF.
Saenz has spoken at numerous universities on issues of Hispanic-interest and written several articles regarding immigration reform. He currently resides with his wife in Orange, California with their three daughters and enjoys traveling and playing futbol. Pace Medical Communications is currently their business venture.