Thomas A. Saenz

President and General Counsel, MALDEF

In 2009, Thomas A. Saenz returned to MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) as president and general counsel. He leads the organization’s efforts to use litigation, policy advocacy, community education, and communications to promote the civil rights of all Latinos living in the United States. In April 2016, Saenz presented argument before the United States Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Texas, on behalf of intervenors, in defense of President Obama’s deferred action immigration initiatives. Previously, as Counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Saenz served on the four-person executive team to the mayor, and he provided legal and policy advice on major initiatives. During his four-year tenure with the City of Los Angeles, Saenz helped to lead the legislative effort to change the governance of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and served for two years as the lead liaison on labor negotiations. Saenz previously practiced civil rights litigation at MALDEF for 12 years, including four years as vice president of litigation. He was MALDEF’s lead counsel in the successful challenge to California’s anti-immigrant Proposition 187, and he led numerous civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants’ rights, education, employment, and voting rights. Saenz achieved several victories against ordinances unlawfully restricting the rights of day laborers, served as lead counsel in the 2001 challenge to California’s congressional redistricting, and initiated the employment discrimination lawsuit resulting in a $50 million settlement with Abercrombie and Fitch. He also served as MALDEF’s lead counsel in two court challenges to Proposition 227, a California English-only education initiative. Saenz also currently serves as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education and on numerous non-profit boards. In the past, he has served on the American Bar Association Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities and the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission. Saenz was born and raised in southern California. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University, and he received his law degree from Yale Law School.