The Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund was established through the leadership of Cesar Perales, Victor Marrero and Jorge Batista to protect the civil rights of Puerto Ricans.
OUR BOLD HISTORY
In 1972, three brilliant young Puerto Rican lawyers made a bold move: using the legal system to challenge the inequities inflicted on the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York City. Jorge Batista, Victor Marrero and Cesar Perales launched the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a civil rights organization modeled on the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.
Today, LatinoJustice PRLDEF is a national nonprofit that’s played a profound role in advancing equity and justice for Latinx communities in the U.S., Puerto Rico and for others, as well as fostering the next generation of Latinx leaders in the legal field and in our communities.
Below are some selected milestones from the five-decade history of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
Aspira v. Board of Education, PRLDEF’s first case establishes the right of NYC public school children, to receive bilingual education while simultaneously learning English.
Lopez v. Dinkins and other cases enforce the right to bilingual ballots and interpreters for Puerto Rican voters established by Congress in 1965. After PRLDEF’s efforts normalized regional bilingual voting systems, Congress extended them to other Spanish-dominant citizens as well as Native American and Asian American voters.
Guardians Association litigation reaches U.S. Supreme Court and establishes standards for employment discrimination challenges to civil service exams in the uniformed services.
Attorney General of NY v. Soto-Lopez reaches U.S. Supreme Court and protects Puerto Rican veterans who enlist while living in Puerto Rico the same civil service benefits as veterans from any state.
PRLDEF Institute for Puerto Rican Policy publishes ground-breaking report on abysmal state of Latino appointments and elections to New York Courts.
PRLDEF and Robert Kennedy, Jr. join forces to sue the U.S. Navy for violations of environmental and civil rights laws in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Lozano v. Hazleton successfully challenges the country’s first anti-immigrant ordinance – the case begins a wave of successful challenges to anti-Latino immigrant copycat laws throughout the U.S.
PRLDEF formally becomes LatinoJustice PRLDEF. The new name signified the evolving nature of the Latino community, the makeup of the organization’s clients, and legal cases, while simultaneously reflecting its Puerto Rican roots.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor is elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court as the first Latino/Latina to ever serve. Justice Sotomayor previously served as a member of the PRLDEF Board of Directors starting in 1980. LJP was instrumental in Senate confirmation hearings to ward off extremist charges against her nomination.
LJP opens a Southeast Regional Office in Orlando, Florida to serve the growing Puerto Rican / Latino community in Florida, Georgia and the Southeast.
LatinoJustice responded to the unprecedented disaster of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, working with the local legal community to open an office that has provided legal assistance to thousands of Puerto Ricans, on the island and in the Diaspora, seeking relief and recovery.
After 45 years, PRLDEF Education Division has assisted 10,000 Puerto Rican and Latino attorneys through counseling and preparatory programs.
LJP’s Southwest Regional Office opens in Austin, Texas with a focus on criminal justice policy and advocacy. We also launched our “Decolonize Justice” film series documenting the harm the current criminal justice system has brought upon Latinx communities.
Our new Center for Racial Justice launches, bringing a focus to our racial justice work.