The ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities (IRR) is proud to announce that the Honorable Thelton E. Henderson will receive the 2013 Thurgood Marshall Award. Established by the American Bar Association’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities in 1992, the Thurgood Marshall Award is named for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall whose life work epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. The award recognizes similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights in the United States.
In 1962, Judge Henderson began his illustrious legal career as the first African-American lawyer in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. After serving members of the low-income community of East Palo Alto, Judge Henderson was hired as an assistant dean at the Stanford Law School where he taught classes and established a minority admissions program to diversify the student body. Following his time at Stanford he went on to form the law firm of Rosen, Remcho & Henderson and continued fighting for the Constitutional rights for all individuals.
Judge Henderson was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 1980. After completing his seven year term as Chief Judge in November 1997, he gained senior status a year later. In line with Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Henderson has proven his commitment to a variety of civil rights causes throughout the United States. While serving on the Federal Bench, Judge Henderson has overseen a number of landmark decisions, and is responsible for advancing the civil liberties of minority groups, the gay community, and those in the prison system,
Judge Henderson wrote the landmark decision in High Tech Gays v. Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office, (9th Cir. 1990), which ruled that Department of Defense investigations of gay and lesbians seeking security clearance violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and their First Amendment rights. This case made Henderson the first United States judge to establish gays and lesbians as a suspect class and that any discrimination against them must be subject to the strict scrutiny test.
As an advocate for equal rights, Judge Henderson ruled that Proposition 209, California’s anti-affirmative action statute, was unconstitutional in the case Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson, (9th Cir. 1997). Several years later, as a part of a 3 judge panel, Judge Henderson found that overcrowding in the California prison system led to conditions that violated the U.S. Constitution in Coleman v. Schwarzenegger (9th Cir, 2010). More recently, he blocked California Proposition 35, an internet disclosure requirement for those convicted of sex crimes, by granting a temporary restraining order barring the law from going into effect until a complete review determines whether the law violates the First Amendment.
Judge Henderson will be presented with the 2013 Thurgood Marshall Award at a dinner on August 10, 2013, during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. For more information about the dinner or to reserve tickets, please contact the Section office at 202/662-1030.