Message from the President & General Counsel

Everyone-- Meet Carmen Leija, one of our MALDEF heroes. Last month, Carmen celebrated her 30th anniversary as a MALDEF employee. That means that she has been at MALDEF for fully two-thirds of our entire organizational history. She has participated in numerous civil rights litigation victories, in education, employment, immigrants' rights, and voting rights. All of our MALDEF staff members make great sacrifices to serve our mission. As the longest-serving staff member in MALDEF history, Carmen Leija has sacrificed as much or more than any. Please join us in honoring her tremendous and ongoing accomplishment!

Sincerely Yours,

Thomas A. Saenz
President and General Counsel

Employee Spotlight: Carmen Leija

Decades of Dedication

In many ways, Carmen M. Leija reflects the very corazón of MALDEF – quite appropriate given the fact that she joined the organization on Valentine’s Day in 1983. Currently, a paralegal in the San Antonio office, Carmen has given three decades of dedication, devotion and commitment to MALDEF. During her tenure, she has worked under four presidents and six regional counsels, remaining a true constant in the organization’s efforts on behalf of Latinos across the country.

Over the years, Carmen has proven to be a tremendous asset and tireless worker, with the betterment of the organization always coming first. She began as a receptionist, handling a myriad of responsibilities as the only support staff for two years including all administrative and legal work for five attorneys. Carmen later progressed to become a legal secretary and, eventually, a paralegal. Her current duties range from keeping the office calendar, tracking important court dates, and preparing business correspondence and other legal documents to organizing exhibits for use at trial and filing materials for use in discovery. She has even accompanied lawyers to court on a number of trials.

On a personal note, Carmen enjoys spending time with her family although she has been “married” to MALDEF longer than her husband: she wed Enrique Leija three months after joining the organization. She is the mother of three daughters Karla (who sadly passed away in 2005), Erika, and Daniela.

As the employee with the longest service, what does Carmen see as the highlight of her years with the organization? “The high point of my years working at MALDEF has been the opportunity of meeting and knowing so many wonderful, extremely dedicated and highly competent people that have come and gone throughout the years. It has been a tremendous pleasure to have worked with them.”

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund