2007 Press Releases

Press Release

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Maria Blanco to Lead UC Berkeley Law School's Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity

UC Berkeley Law School Contact:   Susan Gluss, media relations director, (510) 642-6936 sgluss@law.berkeley.edu

Berkeley , CA —June 7, 2007 … The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) today announced the appointment of Maria Blanco as executive director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity (Warren Institute).  Blanco, currently executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, will join UC Berkeley School of Law this July.  The Boalt alumna ('84) brings more than 20 years of experience as a litigator and advocate for immigrant rights, women's rights and racial justice.

As executive director of the Lawyers' Committee, Blanco launched initiatives to increase minority access to higher education, provide legal counsel for students in substandard schools, and convene African-American and Latino community leaders to discuss the impact of immigration reform. She regularly contributes to national and local media on school integration, the importance of an independent judiciary, and civil rights challenges in today's security climate. Blanco is also the co-chair of the California Coalition for Civil Rights, a group dedicated to building a progressive national agenda for civil and human rights.

Prior to her position at the Lawyers' Committee, Blanco was an attorney with Equal Rights Advocates, a professor of law at Golden Gate University's School of Law, and the National Senior Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.  She has successfully litigated pivotal civil rights cases, such as Davis v. San Francisco, which brought women for the first time into the San Francisco Fire Department; and Castrejon v. Tortilleria La Mejor, which established that undocumented workers are covered by federal anti-discrimination laws.

"This appointment opens an exciting new chapter in my lifetime's work in civil rights and public interest law," said Blanco.  "As the executive director of the Warren Institute, I'll be able to harness the intellectual excellence of Boalt Hall and the entire Berkeley campus to tackle tough social problems that matter most.  Importantly, I hope to engage and inspire students who want to apply their law school smarts to critical ethical and human rights issues."

Boalt's Warren Institute and the Lawyers' Committee have collaborated on a number of significant civil rights cases, conferences, and legal briefs.  Blanco says "opportunities for close cooperation" will continue, most notably on cases involving the impact of California's Proposition 209 on school integration and minority businesses, as well as discrimination in municipal services facing farm-worker communities in California's Central Valley.

The Warren Institute, launched in 2005, is a multidisciplinary, collaborative venture that produces research, policy recommendations and innovative curricula on issues of race, diversity and ethnic justice.  The Warren Institute's portfolio of subjects under active study includes K-12 achievement and accountability, college readiness and access, immigration policy reform, and voting rights.

"The distinctively 'public' element of UC Berkeley Law School's mission is not just our excellence, but our commitment to marshalling that excellence so that our research and teaching have an impact," said Christopher Edley, dean of the law school and co-director of the Warren Institute.  "There's no more complex or important target than the challenges of racial justice and civil rights on which Maria is a regional leader and national star.  She was our dream candidate for bridging the worlds of ideas and action, and we are blessed that's she joining us."

Warren Institute Co-Director and Assistant Professor Goodwin Liu says that Blanco's background "is a perfect fit with our needs in translating top-notch scholarship into practical policy ideas.  She is the best person to take the Warren Institute to the next level of excellence and impact, and we couldn't be luckier that she is coming back to Boalt."

About University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)

For over a century, Boalt Hall has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. Boalt's curriculum — one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation — offers its  J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working on complex issues at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and clinical programs. For more information about the nation's premier public university law school, visit http://www.law.berkeley.edu/