Vilma S. Martinez to Serve as U.S. Ambassador to Argentina

Former MALDEF President becomes the first U.S. woman ambassador to Argentina

July 24, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Vilma S. Martinez to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. Former president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Martinez is the first woman ambassador to Argentina and will replace Earl Anthony Wayne who served as ambassador since 2006.

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz stated, “"Vilma Martinez led MALDEF at a crucial time in its development, successfully establishing MALDEF as a strong, independent, and unique voice advocating on behalf of the Latino community. Her stature and leadership in the legal community and in the civil rights arena are unparalleled. We congratulate the Obama Administration on its wise selection for Ambassador to Argentina."

Martinez, is a well-respected civil rights attorney and has a long and distinguished record of public service. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 15, Ambassador-Designate Martinez said, “I believe the commitment to the values of democracy and human rights that our nations share will serve as common ground in advancing the bilateral relationship between our two nations.”

Prior to being nominated as Ambassador to Argentina by President Barack Obama, Martinez served as partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, specializing in federal and state court litigation and employment counseling. Martinez also has a decorated history of serving the community, holding numerous leadership positions in non-profit boards. She has served as Chairman of The Board of Regents of The University of California from 1984-1986, and was a Regent from 1976-1990. Martinez also chaired the Pacific Council's Study Group on Mexico and served on the advisory boards of Columbia Law School and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California. She was appointed to President Clinton’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy & Negotiations from 1994-1996.

Early in her career, Martinez devoted her life to public service. From 1973 to 1982, Martinez served as MALDEF’s president and general counsel as the organization’s first woman leader. Under her steadfast leadership, MALDEF successfully urged Congress to extend the protections outlined in the Voting Rights Act to all Latinos. Also during her tenure, MALDEF won many significant legal victories including an important ruling that ensured English Language Learners a bilingual education. In her last year, Martinez was also involved in the 1982 landmark case, Plyler v. Doe, where MALDEF argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that at all children, regardless of legal status, should be entitled to an equal education.

Martinez received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1967. She has two sons and a granddaughter.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund