Hon. Jeffrey K. Oing Interviewed on Amici Podcast for AAPI Heritage Month

To celebrate AAPI Heritage Month this May, Hon. Jeffrey K. Oing, Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan, was interviewed by John Caher, on Amici, a podcast series which features interviews with judges from the New York State court system. In a program titled, “Promoting Diversity in the Courts,” Justice Oing shared his experiences as an immigrant who grew up with his family in New York City and rose through the ranks in the legal profession to the point where he was being considered for the role of Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.

Born in Hong Kong until he was four and raised in East Harlem once his parents immigrated to the States, Justice Oing felt fortunate to have never felt like an outsider. Although his parents were not adamant on preserving his Chinese identity, he did not feel disconnected from his culture because of the large Shanghainese community that surrounded him.

During his adolescence, Justice Oing utilized what he recognized as his “gift of gab,” which is a fun way of saying that he loved to talk with people and get to know them. He uses this skill to this day, stating, “Every time I’m in a room with new people, I’m always interested to learn about them because they can read about me, they know about me but I’m really interested about them. I want to know what their story is.” 

Justice Oing began his career never thinking about being a judge, even after clerking for a Chief Justice in New Jersey Supreme Court. It wasn’t until he started working at New York State Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street and served as a court attorney where he helped draft decisions for judges that he discovered being a judge is what he wanted to do. He describes this eye-opening experience, saying, “I got the job and it was nirvana.”

As there weren’t many Asians running for judge in 2000, he stuck out. Everyone knew his name and eventually he was elected as the fourth judge of Chinese descent in New York County. In 2010, he was elected to New York State Supreme Court, being the third of Chinese descent to serve in New York County.

His representation in the court was pioneering, especially as Asian representation in the law was not common. He hones in on this point, calling out the stereotypical belief that Asians can’t be leaders or are not viewed as having a management capability. He says, “we’re viewed as the … hard-working person and less as a person who can run or manage a company. And it’s sort of the docile image that we have.” Being in his role as a judge and meeting other Asian judges with the same ambition to make strides gave him hope for a future with more Asian representation on the bench. 

Justice Oing expressed his passion for diversity and inclusion with his involvement in the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission and the Chinese American Planning Council. Within the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission, he supports their efforts in promoting racial and ethnic fairness to everyone in the court system. As a member of the Chinese American Planning Council, he focuses on services that provide language access to support Asian community needs. “We want to ensure that all people, all the folks who come to our services, get that assistance that they need,” he explained. “So language is a big deal for me, just because of who I am.” 

Justice Oing ends his discussion by recognizing that many immigrant parents have the same goal as native-born Americans: a better life. He perfectly wraps up the conversation by observing, “The pie is pretty big. We all don’t need to have the largest slice, but if everybody can get a slice, I think that will be a good thing.”

Listen here to the full podcast which contains surprising facts about Justice Oing, plus an important announcement: https://soundcloud.com/user-716357085/promoting-diversity-in-the-courts-hon-jeffrey-k-oing/s-cNg2rCXMtv5?si=b6323f1fbc7a47599a252dbc803bc512&utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing