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 membership@aabany.org. 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

NAPABA Raises Concerns About the U.S. ICE Guidance to the Student & Exchange Visitor Program

For Immediate Release:
Date: July 10, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

Trump Administration Releases Guidelines to Restrict International Students

Over Fifty Percent of International Students are from Asian Countries

WASHINGTON — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) raises concerns about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which provides matriculated international students in the United States who attend colleges and universities that are online-only this fall will have to transfer to a school that provides in-person classes or leave the country—or else face deportation. The Trump administration is citing the guidance is an effort to push colleges to reopen.

“We are alarmed at the administration’s misguided policy that inflicts great harm on international students during a worldwide pandemic,” said Bonnie Lee Wolf, President of NAPABA. “ICE’s new guidance is not supported by public health considerations and raises flags that it is motivated by animus toward immigrants and non-citizens.”

Asian students will undoubtedly be harmed disproportionately by this policy. In the 2018-19 academic year, there were over 1 million international students and more than 50% came from Asian countries. In 2018, international students also injected nearly $45 billion into our economy. Numerous universities and colleges across the country oppose the new guidance and it threatens to hurt higher education. NAPABA respectfully encourages the administration/ICE to withdraw this guidance immediately, so that international students can continue to fully participate in the educational system.

Over 100 Jurists of Color in New York, Including 6 AABANY Members from Queens, Sign Letter Affirming Equal Justice in Court

On July 8, 2020, over 100 jurists of color across New York, including 13 Queens judges of color, have added their names to a statewide letter affirming their commitment to equal justice and treatment under the law. Of the 13 Queens judges, six are members of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY): Hon. Karen Gopee, Hon. Wyatt Gibbons, Hon. Phillip Hom, Hon. Dean Kusakabe, Hon. John Lansden, and Hon. Toko Serita.

Led by Syracuse City Court Judge Derrek Thomas, the group formed to address the community in light of George Floyd’s murder and the nationwide protests that followed.

The letter stated: “We reaffirm our commitment to make a positive difference within our respective courts each day and to ensure that those appearing before us are treated equally, with the respect and dignity that both the law and humanity require.”

To read more about the letter, see this Queens Eagle article.

Congratulations to AABANY Recipients of the New York Law Journal’s 2020 Rising Stars Award!

On June 26th, the New York Law Journal announced the winners of the coveted 2020 Rising Stars category. This award recognizes the region’s most promising lawyers who are no older than 40 by the submission date. AABANY is proud to announce that three of the twenty seven recipients are members.

AABANY congratulates Ting S. Chen of Cravath, Swaine, & Moore, Jeffery Mok of Fish & Richardson P.C., and Ji Hye You of Schulte Roth & Zabel for impressive professional achievements and promise they have demonstrated thus far in their careers. Ting leads AABANY’s Corporate Law Committee as Co-Chair and Jeff leads AABANY’s Intellectual Property Committee as Co-Chair.

For further details and to read the official announcement, click here (subscription required).

NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Presents: Get Tested & Combat Anti-Asian Bias

On July 13, 2020, from 12:00-1:30 PM, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Partner Engagement Unit will be hosting a webinar on the Test & Trace Corps.

The Test & Trace Corps is an initiative to reduce COVID-19 transmission in New York City by providing guidance and assistance to people who have COVID-19 or are identified as having been exposed to the virus.

Speakers from the New York City Human Rights Commission (NYCCHR) and the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC) will also provide resources to Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities to report anti-Asian bias and hate crimes that may occur as NYC continues to reopen.

Panelists will include Dr. Neil Vora from the New York City Health Department, Flora Ferng from NYCCHR, and Eunice Lee from OPHC.

Please send any questions for the panel to engagepartners@health.nyc.gov.

Mandarin and Korean Language interpretation will be available for this event.

Register for the webinar via https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_gUZ2JCDeRCaJ4c-vI0Uvcg.