Firm Partner Receives University of Michigan Law School Distinguished Alumni Award

Monica P. Navarro has been selected by the University of Michigan Law School Latino Law Students Association as the recipient of the 2007 J.T. Canales Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is presented at the annual Juan Luis Tienda Scholarship Banquet.

Juan Luis Tienda

Juan Luis Tienda was a beloved son, brother and compañero. In 1976, Juan Luis was killed in an automobile accident mere days before he was due to return for his final year at the University of Michigan Law School; but not before he made an impression. He entered the Law School in the fall of 1974 and immediately became proactive. Juan Luis wanted to make a difference in people’s lives - and he did. At the Law School he quickly earned a reputation as an advocate for the poor and oppressed.

Juan Luis served as President of La Raza Law Students Association (the predecessor to LLSA) and worked to further the interests of both the Law School and the larger Latino community. Juan Luis actively sought to recruit Latino students to Michigan and worked diligently to increase Latino faculty representation. He spent the summers following his first and second years at the Law School working at the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project in Hart, Michigan where he provided legal and social services to agricultural workers. Juan Luis regularly offered legal advice to prison inmates through his volunteer work with the Milan Prison Project. Despite the significant time he dedicated to others, he still managed to be a successful law student.

José Thomás “J.T.” Canales

José Thomás “J.T.” Canales was a lawyer, legislator, and founding father of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1899 and was the Law School’s first Latino graduate. J.T. Canales began his legal career in his home state of Texas where he practiced law in Corpus Christi and Laredo before settling down in Brownsville. Over the ensuing decades he held several public offices, including Cameron County Superintendent of Public Schools, Cameron County Judge and Brownsville City Attorney. J.T. Canales served for five terms in the Texas House of Representatives, where he supported suffrage for women and focused on education, tax reform and irrigation law.

J.T. Canales stood out as the only prominent local Democrat to challenge the often brutal tactics of the Texas Rangers against Mexican-Americans. Citing many instances of unlawful violence against Tejanos, J.T. Canales called for a legislative investigation into the agency and the reorganization of the force. As an attorney, J.T. Canales fought on behalf of Latinos in the courtroom, as well. He served as an appellate attorney in Del Rio ISD v. Salvatierra, the first Texas case concerning the segregation of Mexican schoolchildren, and he was involved in Delgado v. Bastrop ISD, a milestone case in the struggle to eliminate the separate public education of Latinos in Texas. After he retired, J.T. Canales played an active role in the emerging Mexican-American civil rights movement. He served on the first LULAC Board of Directors and was president of the organization from 1932 to 1933.

The annual J.T. Canales Award is given to a University of Michigan Law School alumnus who has worked diligently to improve the lives of Latinos. LLSA honors those who have made a significant contribution to empowering our community and those who, like J.T. Canales, serve as role models for the next generation of Latino lawyers and leaders.