Working Together to Serve Diverse Communities: A Virtual Resource Fair

Nine federal agencies will share information concerning their missions and available programs and resources. This information-packed event offers a roadmap to access federal services, to build stronger relationships, and to explore ways that we can work together to better serve Black, Latino, and other communities of color. 

No registration is required. The resource fair will take place over the course of two days — Wednesday, August 5th from 10:00AM to 4:00PM CT and Thursday, August 6th from 10:00AM to 4:00PM CT. Additional information, including an agenda and speaker biographies, is available from the Federal Trade Commission at this link

Email questions or suggestions to: [email protected].

AABANY President and Immediate Past President Listed Among City & State’s 100 Most Influential Asian Americans in New York Politics and Policy

Sapna Palla (top) and Brian Song (bottom)
Sapna Palla (top) and Brian Song (bottom)

AABANY is excited to announce that Immediate Past President Brian Song and President Sapna Palla have been included in the 2020 Power List of the 100 Most Influential Asian Americans in New York Politics & Policy, released by City & State. Song and Palla are jointly recognized as 52nd on the list. 

City & State wrote: 

The Asian American Bar Association’s mission is to ensure “the meaningful participation of Asian-Americans in the legal profession.” It has made strides under Sapna Palla, a partner at Wiggin and Dana LLP, who is the president for the 2020-2021 term, and under her immediate predecessor, Brian Song, a partner at the top law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP. The organization recently surpassed 1,400 paid members.  

Congratulations and thanks to Brian and Sapna to bringing AABANY to these new heights.

In addition to Brian and Sapna, several others among the honorees have worked with or been associated with AABANY, as members, community partners, or sponsors, to whom we also wish to extend our congratulations.

Among the top 10, AABANY has worked with Grace Meng, New York’s first Asian American US Congress Member; John Liu, State Senator and first Asian American to serve on the City Council; Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition; Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou, both state Assembly Members; and Margaret Chin, New York City Council Member.

From the top 11-50, AABANY congratulates:

  • Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council, which has partnered with AABANY on the Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic;
  • Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, one of our community partners;
  • Frank Wu, President of Queens College, who co-authored our most performed trial reenactment, Building Our Legacy: The Murder of Vincent Chin
  • Preet Bharara who, as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was a regular speaker at our annual Prosecutors Reception and an honoree at our Annual Dinner in 2015; 
  • John Park, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, one of our community partners; 
  • Margaret Fung, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of our community partners; 
  • Faiza Saeed, a Presiding Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a Gold Sponsor of AABANY for many years;
  • Honorable Denny Chin, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and past AABANY President (1992-93), who currently helps lead our trial reenactments project.

From 51 – 100 on the list, we extend our congratulations to 

  • Jayasri Ganapathy, President of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), one of our sister bar associations and past AABANY member; 
  • My Chi To, Executive Deputy Superintendent of the Insurance Division at the New York State Department of Financial Services, and past AABANY member; 
  • Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese America, one of our community partners; 
  • Wendy Cai-Lee, President and CEO of Piermont Bank, a Bronze Sponsor of the 2019 NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference; and 
  • Justin Yu, Chair of the New York Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which has partnered with us for many years for our walk-in Pro Bono Clinic.

AABANY is privileged and honored to have worked closely with so many of New York’s most influential Asian American in politics and policy. Congratulations to everyone who made the list, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration and to partner in the future.

AABANY Hosts Weekly Membership Mixer on July 24

On July 24, 2020, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly Zoom Membership Mixer with the Korean American Lawyers of Greater New York (KALAGNY), with 26 participants in attendance. As a Board Member of both AABANY and KALAGNY, Membership Committee Co-Chair and AABANY Board Secretary Christopher Bae was the perfect host for this event. The icebreaker question posed to the participants was:  “What is your go-to karaoke song?”  Some of the go-to songs or artists were “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, ABBA, “Manic Monday” by the Bangles, “Graduation” by Vitamin C, and Taylor Swift. 

Thank you for joining us, KALAGNY! We hope to team up again in the future.

The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but people stay on after 7:30pm for smaller breakout groups. For this week’s Mixer afterparty, members stayed on until 11:30pm to hang out. 

Membership Committee will continue to host weekly Zoom mixers until it is safe to gather together again in person. 

We are giving away door prizes at the end of some Mixers. In order to win, you must be a member and must RSVP on the aabany.org calendar entry to get a raffle number. Non-members can join the Zoom mixer but won’t be eligible to win a prize. 

Mixers are not recorded, and are LIVE, so don’t miss out.

PLEASE JOIN US THIS WEEK FOR AABANY SHOW & TELL! If you have a cool collection, special art, or a unique item you want to show off to members, please have it ready to present at the July 31 Mixer! Register by Thursday, July 30, at https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1366646.

From the Chinese-American Planning Council: Applications for New York COVID-19 Rental Relief Program Now Open Until July 30, 2020

Founded in 1965, the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) is the largest Asian American social service organization in the nation. With the aim to promote the social and economic empowerment of Chinese American, immigrant, and low-income communities of New York City, the CPC responds to critical needs of community members during COVID-19. In line with its mission, CPC is providing critical up-to-date information and resources in various languages. CPC now shares news of an emergency Rental Relief Program (RRP) introduced by New York State to provide one-time rental assistance to New Yorkers burdened by rent during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Someone may qualify for the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program if the four specifications below are met: 

  • You are a renter living in NY State. 
  • You have lost income between April 1, 2020 and July 30, 2020.
  • You paid more than 30% of your household income for rent before March 1st. 
  • Your household income (including unemployment benefits) is below 80% of HUD’s area medium income. 

Please note, the deadline to apply for the program is Thursday, July 30, at 6 PM ET. For further program overview and eligibility information, please see here

Below is an information flyer in simplified Chinese answering frequently asked questions about New York State’s COVID-19 Rent Relief Program. Applications are also available in Traditional Chinese, Korean, Bengali, Spanish, Russian, and Haitian-Creole.

AABANY Co-Sponsors: Combating Anti-Asian Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace in the COVID-19 Era

On July 10, AABANY co-sponsored a CLE Program on anti-Asian racism and discrimination in the workplace in the COVID-19 era. The panel focused on how COVID-19 is causing an increase in anti-Asian sentiment and detailed the current state of workplace discrimination laws. Speakers included Helen Park, Counsel at Cozen O’Connor, and William Li, Principal and Founder of William K. Li Law PLLC. The program was moderated by Yoojin DeNiro, Co-Chair of the AABANY Labor & Employment Law Committee. 

The panel began with historical background on anti-Asian discrimination in the United States, with a focus on the recurring villainization of minority groups. Significant examples include the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the internment of Japanese during World War II, and the murder of Vincent Chin (mistaken for Japanese) by white auto-workers. 

Discussion also centered on the model minority myth as a barrier to recognizing the existence of workplace discrimination against Asians. Stereotypes perpetuating the image of Asian American children as math and musical geniuses may appear positive, but actually encourage a damaging narrative that deems Asians as a minority group not suffering from discrimination. The many repercussions include, for example, the separation of Asians from the rest of America by lumping them into one homogenous group and the characterization of all Asians as being polite and submissive. 

The panel then outlined the current state of workplace discrimination laws and provided tips for Asian employees to keep in mind when reporting such conduct in the workplace. According to William Li, legal protections against workplace discrimination exist at both federal and state levels. Some states, such as New York, will have a more extensive list of those protected from workplace discrimination than the Federal law. Tips to keep in mind when reporting workplace discrimination include maintaining an extensive paper trail, remembering that harassment need not be severe or pervasive in order for the employer to be liable, and that a complainant does not have to complain to their employer or file a formal grievance in order to establish liability. 

While discriminatory incidents against Asian Americans have increased in public since COVID-19, it is important to keep in mind that because most work remains remote, the full impact may not be seen until later. 

Thank you to speakers Helen Park and William Li for their time and insight, and Yoojin DeNiro for moderating. Additional thanks to the Cozen O’ Connor firm for hosting the webinar. Those interested in learning more about AABANY’s Labor and Employment Law Committee can do so here

Asia Practice Committee Hosts First Event of the Year

On July 15, 2020 the Asia Practice Committee (APC) hosted their first event of the year, with around 20 participants attending the virtual happy hour. Attendees dialed in from across the country, with co-chair Jian Wu calling in from Beijing. Together with co-chair Conlyn Chan and Vice Chair Wen Zhang, they posed the icebreaker question: “What is your favorite activity to do during COVID?” Answers included biking, dancing, playing guitar, bread baking, and horseback riding. 

Participants were also polled about their motivations to attend APC events and what future content they would like to see. Guided by feedback, APC will look into hosting talks with Fortune 500 executives, general counsels, and law firm partners. Additionally, over the course of the next year, there are plans for events related to China-US business relations, COVID-19 impacts and solutions, and those that expand social networking opportunities for New York-based Asian Americans. 

The Asia Practice Committee was established in 2015 and provides a forum to network, learn, and attend events related to cross-border, international, and Asia-based law practice. For those who missed the event but would like to participate, please visit the committee’s webpage here. Feel free to reach out to the co-chairs to be added to the listserv and find out how to get more involved with the committee. 

AABANY Presents: Avoiding Real Property Disputes in Divorce Matters In the Aftermath of COVID-19

On June 25, AABANY presented a CLE Program on divorce property disputes in the context of COVID-19, featuring panelists from practitioners in matrimonial law and real estate law. The panel outlined influences of the pandemic upon real property disputes in divorce proceedings, and recounted actual cases to demonstrate. Speakers included Margaret Ling, Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corp. and Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee; Derrick Rubin, trial attorney associate at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates; Jerome Wisselman, Managing Partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates; and Irene Angelakis, Founding Owner at Law Offices of Irene Angelakis. 

Derrick Rubin began by discussing the basic considerations of property disputes. Family homes are typically the largest asset, and disputes center around who gets the house, whether or not to sell, or if one spouse should buy out another. Another necessary consideration is the legal theory of equitable distribution, which emphasizes a fair rather than equal distribution of property on the basis of various factors. Some examples include how long the parties were married, their individual needs, and the financial contribution each party made during the marriage.

Margaret Ling then outlined examples from past cases to demonstrate the benefits of in-person dealings and how remote demands of COVID-19 impose challenges. In a Chase Bank refinance transaction, a couple sought a $2 million refinance on their condo. However, the lawyer noticed the husband seemed nervous, the wife was fidgeting, and her identification appeared fake. Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that the husband was in the midst of a divorce and had brought his girlfriend in an attempt to make property adjustments while his wife was traveling — not permitted under domestic relations law which forbids property adjustments without spousal approval. Today, legal transactions that depend upon accurate identification must come up with new solutions. 

Irene Angelakis continued the discussion with tips on how to avoid disputes during the pandemic and also raised ethical considerations. She talked about taking into account pandemic-induced income changes, a common circumstance today, by giving parties more realistic timelines to decide on refinancing. Another involved taking social distancing precautions if both parties decide to sell the house. The most important takeaway is that both parties should try to settle property disputes because the courts and trials are limited options during COVID-19. Irene concluded with the topic of ethics by discussing disclosure requirements, matrimonial retainer agreements, fee disputes and escrow. 

A final topic explored by Jerome Wisselman was asset protection. Asset protection, through prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, are preventative legal measures taken to avoid property disputes during divorce. Provision of detailed financial statements by both parties, addressing potential future investment returns, and deciding on whether retirement benefits will be separate or together, are necessary for the creation of a fair and accurate asset protection agreement. The main takeaway is that current divorce property disputes that have been further complicated by COVID-19 circumstances may have been avoided if more asset protection agreements existed.

Thank you to all the panelists for their valuable time and insights, and thanks to the Real Estate Committee for organizing this timely and informative CLE program. To view the recording of the CLE, click on the image at the top. If you would like to learn more about AABANY’s Real Estate Committee, click here: https://www.aabany.org/page/120

AABANY Hosts Talent Show and Weekly Mixer on July 17

On July 17, 2020, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly Zoom Membership Mixer, with 26 participants in attendance.  The icebreaker question posed to the participants was: “What is your talent, or if you don’t have a talent, what talent do you wish you had?” Members overwhelmingly said they were piano players. For the people who didn’t have special talents, they wished they could speak foreign languages, sing, play musical instruments or code their own video games. 

This week, AABANY’s most talented members displayed their skills virtually. We want to give our love and appreciation to the performers: 

  • Steven Lau performed “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, singing and playing guitar. 
  • Wen Zhang performed a traditional Chinese dance in a beautiful dress. 
  • Andrew Kao performed a standup comedy routine (sitting down).
  • Kwok Ng performed “The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King, singing and playing the guitar. 

For the Mixer afterparty, Kwok performed an encore, singing and playing “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, and those who stayed were able to sing along.

The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but people have regularly stayed on after 7:30pm to continue chatting.

Membership Committee will continue to host weekly Zoom mixers until it is safe to gather together again in person. 

We have been giving away door prizes at some of the Mixers. To win, you must be a member and must RSVP on the calendar entry at aabany.org to get a raffle number. Non-members can join the Zoom Mixer but won’t be eligible to win a prize. 

Mixers are not recorded, and are LIVE, so don’t miss out.

This Friday’s Mixer will be done in collaboration with KALAGNY (the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York). To join us, please register by Thursday, July 23, at https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1366645

Allen & Overy Honors the Legacy of Vincent Chin through a Virtual Trial Reenactment

Vincent Chin is a name painfully familiar to some and unrecognizable to others. It is the beginning of so many stories, including mine. Three years ago, I met Annie Tan (no relation to me, though we happen to share the same name), an Asian American activist, teacher, and niece of Vincent Chin. She was the keynote speaker at Crossroads, a conference for young Asian American activists organized by Columbia students. I was a confused 16-year-old attending my first conference dedicated to activism. 

At the time, I had just begun exploring my Asian American identity and history. Through self-education and discussions with other students, I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the model minority myth. But, despite my interest in activism, I did not believe that I could seriously pursue or be successful in creating change for the Asian American community. Who would listen to a young, Asian American girl, not even old enough to vote, talk about race, especially when these conversations are often so complex and black and white?

However, as Annie Tan stood behind the podium and began recounting her own journey in activism–how she found a supportive community through Columbia’s Asian American Alliance, and how the legacy of her uncle, Vincent Chin, affected her work–I realized that someone like me, someone who looked like me and even had the same name as me, could be an activist. Because of Asian American women like Lily Chin and Helen Zia, Vincent Chin’s death became not just a moment, but a movement for Asian Americans. And, it is because of people like Annie Tan, and maybe even people like me, that the story of Vincent Chin, and the story of Asian America, continues to be told and heard.

This year, on May 28, during APA Heritage Month, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) co-sponsored a virtual trial re-enactment of the Vincent Chin case with Allen & Overy–the first time a reenactment has been performed virtually via WebEx due to the restrictions of COVID-19. I attended this event, hoping to learn more about the man whose life inspired so many, including myself, to speak out against hatred, violence, and inequity.

Vincent Chin was beaten to death in 1982 in Detroit days before his wedding by two white men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, who were laid-off automobile workers. The fatal assault was preceded by an argument between Chin and Ebens, who hurled racial insults at Chin, reportedly calling him a “Nip.” At the time, Asian Americans were the face of the enemy: the robust Japanese automobile industry was putting many automobile workers in Detroit, like Ebens and Nitz, out of work. 

Despite the violent acts that Chin’s murderers committed, they were imposed only a fine for their crimes. When the case reached the Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Kaufman, finding Ebens and Nitz guilty of manslaughter, only sentenced them to three years probation and a fine of approximately $3,000. They received no jail time, and no prosecutor appeared during the trial, nor was Chin’s family notified of the trial. 

Frustrated with this outcome, Helen Zia and Lily Chin, supported by the newly-founded Asian American civil rights organization American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), urged the U.S. Department of Justice to bring federal criminal charges against the murderers and investigate the case as a civil rights violation. The case was brought to Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, one of the first African American women to serve on the Federal bench, and in 1984, the U.S. District Court found Ebens guilty of violating the civil rights of Chin and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. However, Ebens’ lawyers appealed, claiming that the trial judge did not allow the defense to present evidence that suggested the prosecution tampered with the witness testimony. This led to a retrial in the federal court in Cincinnati on May 1, 1987, which found that Ebens was not guilty of violating Chin’s civil rights and that his actions were not motivated by Chin’s race. The same year, Ebens and Nitz settled a civil suit out of court, where Nitz was ordered to pay $50,000 and Ebens was ordered to pay $1.5 million to the Chin estate. To this day, Ebens has not served any jail time and has yet to pay the now $8 million (with accumulated interest) he owes to the Chin family.

The Vincent Chin case highlighted the flaws in our criminal justice system and served as a catalyst for Asian American civil rights engagement. Following the trials, federal and state laws were enacted to give victims of hate crimes greater rights. The case also led to reforms in sentencing and plea bargaining, including the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Most importantly, Chin’s murder awakened the civil rights consciousness of Asian Americans in a time when the subject of race was still Black and White. Asian Americans were galvanized by the notion that they, just like Vincent Chin, could be beaten to death because of their race without the perpetrators suffering any consequences. People across ethnic and socioeconomic lines joined together to seek justice for Chin, creating organizations such as American Citizens for Justice, now known as the Asian American Center for Justice, focused on civil rights work.

A panel discussion followed the trial re-enactment, featuring: Christine Choy, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary film, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” and professor at NYU Tisch School of Arts; Emil Guillermo, print and broadcast journalist, and contributor to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s blog; and Jia Lynn Yang, Deputy National Editor at The New York Times and author of One Mighty and Irresistible Tide, which examines the history of immigration in the United States. The discussion was moderated by John Hwang, Partner, and Jiawei Chin, Associate, at Allen & Overy. 

Christine Choy reflected on the evolution of activism and the Asian American identity, referencing major events such as the end of the Vietnam War, and the rise of the Black Panther Party and other young student movements. She cited the Red Guard Party in Chinatown as an early example of Asian American activism and stressed that Vincent Chin’s murder was responsible for asserting Asian Americans’ role in civil rights.

Emil Guillermo emphasized that though the crime of Vincent Chin awoke people in Detroit, he, himself, did not know as much as he should have about the case. As we approach the 40th anniversary of Chin’s death, most people still do not understand the full picture of what happened during Chin’s case. Guillermo also highlighted the similarities between Vincent Chin’s death and that of George Floyd, urging the Asian American community to recognize their shared experiences with Black communities.

Finally, Jia Lynn Yang noted how quickly the Asian American population has grown, rising from 3.5 million in 1980 to now over 20 million. Despite their growing presence, Asian Americans are still viewed as foreigners who will never belong in the United States, just as Vincent Chin was. In fact, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allowed many Asian Americans to immigrate to this country, was not consciously written to welcome non-Europeans. Now, however, almost two-thirds of Asian Americans are foreign-born, and the xenophobic attacks Chin faced have transformed into anti-Asian violence and harassment from racially-charged fears over COVID-19.

Many of us are tied to Vincent Chin, often in ways we may not even realize. He is the reason why many individuals, like myself, are inspired and emboldened to engage in Asian American activism. Vincent Chin is not just a memory they think of once a year, on the anniversary of his death. As I listened to Annie Tan describe her family’s pain, and how brave and lonely Lily Chin–her great aunt–was as she fought for her son’s justice, I understood that Vincent’s murder is a wound that continues to haunt families, friends, and communities connected to him, and a legacy that is still alive in Asian Americans today.

It is easy for us to forget their names: Vincent Chin, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain. But we must recognize that these individuals are not simply statistics or hashtags. Their lives–cut short by racism, bigotry, and the failures of our criminal justice system–mattered. Their lives have the power to inspire people to take action against hate and to spark movements, but this is only possible if we continue to learn about and honor these individuals, whose stories have been lost and overlooked. Only then, by acknowledging those before us, can we strive to create real change and avoid repeating the past.

We thank Allen & Overy and all of the participants in the reenactment for giving their time to raise awareness of Vincent Chin’s legacy. To learn more about the Vincent Chin trial reenactment and to request the script, go here. For more information about AABANY’s trial reenactments project, visit https://reenactments.aabany.org/.

AABANY Hosts Weekly Membership Mixer on July 10

On July 10, 2020, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly Zoom Membership Mixer, with 27 participants in attendance. Dressed as Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Membership Director Beatrice Leong posed the icebreaker question: “What is your favorite breakfast food?” Members shared their favorites, including congee, Taiwanese breakfast foods, jian bing, rice roll, soy milk, corned beef hash, Belgian waffles. The second half of the mixer we featured President-Elect Terry Shen and heard him recount his journey from associate to partner, and from member to President-Elect of AABANY.

The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but people stay on after 7:30pm for smaller breakout groups.

The Membership Committee will continue to host weekly Zoom mixers until it is safe to gather together again in person.

We have been giving away door prizes at most of the mixers. In order to win, you must be a member and must RSVP on the calendar entry at aabany.org to get a raffle number. Non-members can join the Zoom mixer but won’t be eligible to win a prize.

Mixers are not recorded and are LIVE, so don’t miss out.

Watch out for the AABANY Talent Show coming on Friday, July 17! If you have a talent, such as singing, dancing, playing a musical instruments. demonstrating karate, please email us at [email protected] We will be running the talent show as part of Friday’s mixer on July 17. To register by July 16, go here: https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1393375