Thomas D. Riordan
Thomas Riordan was a California native, born in San Francisco in 1855. He graduated from St. Ignatius College with high honors at the age of nineteen and read law. Riordan’s legal mentor was Benjamin S. Brooks, a prominent member of the San Francisco bar who had become an advocate for the Chinese. When, in 1876, a special congressional committee visited San Francisco to investigate Chinese immigration to the United States, Brooks volunteered his services as a lawyer to help represent the Chinese community. In 1877, Brooks published a pamphlet, The Chinese in California, defending Chinese immigrants against rising anti-Chinese sentiments. It was during this period that Riordan studied law under Brooks’ tutelage and, after being admitted to the state and federal bar in 1879, Riordan soon became an attorney for the Chinese consul and the Chinese Six Companies in San Francisco. Hired on retainer, Riordan represented many Chinese in immigration cases and in civil and criminal matters. He not only led the legal team representing Chew Heong, but also argued several of the landmark Chinese exclusion and civil rights cases before the federal courts and on appeal to the Supreme Court, including the Chinese Exclusion Case of 1889 and Fong Yue Ting v. United States in 1892. Riordan died in San Francisco in 1905.
Chew Heong v. United States: Chinese Exclusion and the Federal Courts