On March 31, AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, under the leadership of Chair Elaine Chiu, who is also a Professor at St. John’s University School of Law, organized and led a court watching event at New York State Supreme Court to observe the sentencing of Jarrod Powell, who pled guilty to manslaughter in the 2021 killing of Yao Pan Ma. Powell admitted that his act was motivated by racial hatred against Yao Pan Ma, and Powell was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime. He will serve 22 years in jail plus five years of post-release supervision.
More than 50 Asian New Yorkers came out today to #rememberyaopanma at the sentencing of his killer, Jarrod Powell. Together we helped our communities be seen and heard and not forgotten. Congrats to the team at Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for their commitment to these cases. Asian American Bar Association of New York thanks @donblee and @waiyeechan of Homecrest Community Services and Ansen Tang of United Chinese Association of Brooklyn. A big shout out to @maywong of the Pro Bono Committee!
Jeffrey Gu, a member of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, wrote on LinkedIn:
The raw necessity of just showing up has never been more evident. Over 50 Asian American community members showed up this morning to #rememberYaoPanMa at the sentencing of his killer.
It is not easy hearing victim impact statements and wondering whether, under different circumstances, it could have been your colleague, or friend, or family member viciously attacked on account of their race. The killer admitted in his plea that he targeted Mr. Ma because he was Asian American. There is no amount of justice that can restore what was taken from Mr. Ma’s family: the loss of a father taken from his children, a husband from his wife, a son from his elderly mother.
As a community, what we can do is at least show up and refuse to let the stories of the victims of anti-Asian American hate fade away. Follow Asian American Bar Association of New York for future court watching and community gatherings.
Jeffrey is Co-Founder of Make Us Visible, a group advocating for AAPI history to be taught in school from K-12 across the country.
Hannah Yu, Chief of the Hate Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, wrote on LinkedIn:
While this sentencing is the end of this sad chapter, the work of our Hate Crimes Unit continues. We are dedicated to serving every community in Manhattan and ensuring that everyone feels safe to be who they are. It is my sincere hope that the Ma family will continue to heal and find peace.
Her post included the Manhattan District Attorney’s Press Release on the sentencing that included the following quote from D.A. Bragg:
“Mr. Ma’s death was the result of a despicable racially motivated attack. His family endured an agonizing eight months in the hospital while the devoted husband and father of two remained in a vegetative state, before succumbing to his injuries on December 31, 2021,” said District Attorney Bragg. “New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and no one should have to fear that they may be in danger because of their background. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that New Yorkers of all origins feel safe.”
AABANY thanks everyone who came out for this court watching event which epitomized the importance of the AAPI community showing up and standing up to speak out against AAPI hate. We thank Prof. Chiu for her leadership and Jeffrey Gu for his support and dedication. We thank Chief ADA Hannah Yu and the Manhattan DA’s office for their continuing fight to seek justice in hate crimes against the AAPI community and all targeted communities.
On October 7, 2022, Law360 published a piece written by AABANY Member Karen King titled “Key to a 9-0 Court Win: Look for a Common Ground.” Karen argued before the Supreme Court in March 2022 in Golan v. Saada, in which the Court decided in favor of Karen’s client in an unanimous 9-0 decision. Karen is a Partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, and an active member of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force.
Karen has had an impressive and storied career, with accomplishments reaching back to before her time as a litigator. She was president of the debate team in high school and at Yale University, where she majored in philosophy and political science. After Yale, Karen received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and started her career at Cravath. Two decades later, Karen continues to appear in federal and state courts on behalf of corporate clients while also taking on pro bono clients, being named a “Notable Woman in Law” by Crain’s New York Business and receiving both the Federal Bar Council’s Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service and the National Asian Pacific Bar Association’s Pro Bono award. Her pro bono clients include victims of discrimination, survivors of domestic violence, students with learning disabilities, victims of gun violence, and prisoners in civil rights issues.
In the article, Karen writes about the strategies and steps her team undertook to prepare for arguing Golan v. Saada before the Court.
The case concerned an Italian citizen who filed a petition with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to return his child to Italy through the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Narkis Golan, the child’s mother, petitioned the court to prevent the child’s return to Italy, as the father’s history of abuse would put the child at a risk of psychological harm. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the District Court for the Eastern District of New York agreed that the child could be required to return to Italy by finding “ameliorative measures” to prevent such harm to the child. When Karen brought the case to the Supreme Court for Golan, the issue was whether, under the Hague Convention, courts must consider all possible “ameliorative measures” which would lead to the return of a child to their country of habitual residence. The Court ruled in favor of Karen’s client, finding that courts are not obligated to find options that will enable the child’s safe return before denying return based on a risk of harm. Karen describes in her article how she and her team navigated the diverse judicial philosophies of the Court’s justices to achieve a 9-0 victory.
Karen and her team took a keen interest in the judicial philosophies and oral argument preferences of justices on the Court to draw broad support from the bench. For example, Karen argued that the Second Circuit’s requirement to consider “ameliorative measures” which would favor return was an outcome not grounded in the text of the Hague Convention—an approach smartly tailored for textualist justices. Karen also writes that this case demonstrated how oral arguments offer not just opportunities for petitioners and respondents to emphasize certain legal points, but also chances to shape the justices’ thinking on the case.
In addition to demonstrating shrewd foresight through a textualist argument, Karen also underscored the importance of children’s interests in the Hague Convention text. These approaches to Karen’s oral argument performance were reflected in the Court’s opinion, where Justice Sotomayor remanded the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The justice drew upon the textualist ideas and child interest issues which Karen had brought forth during oral argument.
Karen’s article also reflected on the challenges she faced in preparing for oral argument at the Court for this case, as COVID-19 restrictions and partisan tensions reached new heights during preparations.
Lastly, Karen’s presence alongside two other Asian American litigators at oral argument before the Court places this case in Asian American legal history. The strategies Karen outlined for stellar advocacy go far beyond Golan v. Saada. As an Asian American community leader, Karen advocates for greater diversity in courtrooms and law firms, guides young litigators, and gives back to communities through pro bono work. AABANY is proud to see the inspiring work Karen King has done inside and outside of her role as a litigator, and we are excited to see how else she will continue to be a leading example for the Asian American community.
On September 20th, 2022, AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force was honored with the prestigious Bar Leaders Innovation Award in the category of large-sized bar association (2,000 members or more) at the New York State Bar Association headquarters in Albany, making AABANY a recipient of this award for the third year in a row. Beatrice Leong, Esq., AABANY’s Co-Vice President of Programs and Operations, went to Albany to accept the award from the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Bar Leaders, on behalf of AABANY.
On September 20, Beatrice met with bar leaders from across New York state during a Bar Leaders Symposium and discussed how AABANY was able to maintain membership and actively keep its members and community engaged. During the reception following the Symposium, Beatrice accepted the award on behalf of AABANY. In her acceptance speech, she emphasized why AAVTF was created and the impact the Hate Eradication Active Response Team (“HEART”) had on helping community members navigate the criminal justice process. Beatrice also described how AAVTF worked with community organizations, the police, local prosecutors, elected officials, and law firms to gather data on hundreds of hate incidents while also directly assisting survivors. The event concluded with a dinner among the assembled bar leaders, providing another opportunity for Beatrice to share how AABANY was able to bring its leaders and members together to fight anti-Asian violence in New York City.
In AABANY’s press release about the award, President Willam Ng further commented: “With the support and acknowledgment of NYSBA and other partner organizations, AABANY and its AAVTF are confident that we can create safe and just communities and legal systems for Asian New Yorkers and all New Yorkers.” To read the press release issued by AABANY, please click here.
To read the AAVTF’s Endless Tide report, please click here.
To support the efforts of AAVTF, please click here.
To learn more about the HEART project, please click here.
On June 30th, the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s (AABANY) Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF) hosted a community workshop on self-defense and defense of others. The speakers were Nassau County Assistant District Attorney and Prosecutors Committee Co-Chair Joseb Gim and St. John’s University Law School Professor and Academic Committee Co-Chair Elaine Chiu. The presentation was moderated by Eugene Love Kim, Legal Aid Society attorney and Vice-Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, and was translated into Cantonese and Mandarin by Kwok Ng, law clerk at the New York State Supreme Court and PBCS Committee Co-Chair, and Ye Qing, attorney at Morvillo Abramovitz, respectively.
In light of the recent surge in anti-Asian violence and bias incidents, the presentation focused on the legal consequences that New York Penal Law has for self-defense. ADA Gim gave a summary of the laws and listed the various weapons that qualify as “deadly physical force” under New York Penal Law. These weapons include, but are not limited to, pepper spray, collapsible batons, and electric stun guns. ADA Gim also pointed out that, in exercising self-defense, unless a “reasonable person” would have made the same decision to defend themselves in your situation, using regular physical force or deadly physical force to defend yourself may lead to you being charged with a criminal offense. Prof. Chiu briefly described the possibility of also being sued in a civil lawsuit but noted that using violence within the bounds of the New York Penal Law would prevent a judgment against you.
At the end of the presentation, ADA Gim talked about more practical, immediate implications of the laws on self-defense and defense of others. He emphasized that, oftentimes, choosing to defend yourself will result in both you and the attacker being taken into police custody from the scene for further investigation and possible prosecution. He then discussed the importance of concrete evidence, 911 calls, recordings, and eyewitness testimony in corroborating your testimony. Both ADA Gim and Prof. Chiu also noted that individuals, before defending themselves, have a duty to flee dangerous situations unless they are attacked in their own homes. After the presentation, the discussion was opened to questions from the attendees.
AABANY thanks the members of the AAVTF for organizing the community workshop and for their service to the AAPI community of the greater New York metro area. To view the recording of the event, click here. To learn more about and to help fund the AAVTF’s initiatives, click here.
On May 25, the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF) hosted an information briefing about the AAVTF’s activities and about the rise in anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The speakers for the event were AABANY President Terry Shen; Board Director, Issues Committee Co-Chair and Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair Chris Kwok; Board Director and past Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee Co-Chair Karen Yau; PBCS Committee Co-Chair Karen King; Prosecutors’ Committee Co-Chair Joseb Gim; and Executive Director Yang Chen.
Chris and President Shen gave the opening remarks, introducing the event, and thanking all the attendees for coming.
After these remarks, Chris began the presentation, explaining how the publicity about anti-Asian violence generated in mainstream media has suddenly catapulted Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) into the public consciousness. Unlike before, Asians are now viewed as a group that experiences discrimination and violence, just like any other minority. Chris explained that these realizations politically empower AAPIs to make change in the political system as Asians become more aware about race and the ways in which it affects them. The AAPI identity has also been recreated through artwork, publications, and other initiatives. Asian non-profits have also begun receiving a large influx of donations that have great potential to aid the AAPI community. Chris also discussed the history of AABANY’s report and how Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric about the virus incited a wave of anti-Asian hate and violence during early 2020. These events culminated in the report’s publication in February 2021. Karen then discussed the report’s publication process which involved the feedback and support of bar associations, law firms and other organizations. The subsequent publicity generated by the report was cemented by the anti-Asian shootings in Atlanta. Ever since, Karen explained, AABANY has frequently been requested to speak at numerous events and on many media outlets. Many initiatives proposed by the report have also since been implemented.
Yang then went on to discuss the genesis of the AAVTF, made up of members of the Academic Committee, Issues Committee, Legal Referral and Information Services (LRIS) Committee, PBCS Committee, Prosecutors Committee, and Student Outreach Committee as well as Immediate Past President Sapna Palla, President Shen, and President-Elect Will Ng. Yang also explained how the AAVTF was founded to realize the goals outlined in the report, focusing on three prongs of action: education/communication, research, and advocacy. Ever since, the AAVTF has pressed for hate crime prosecutions in DA Offices, published Know Your Rights Brochures for community members on what to do if they face an anti-Asian bias incident or hate crime, organized speaking engagements, begun data tracking for incidents, formed the Hate Eradication Active Response Team (HEART), and much more to raise awareness and combat anti-Asian violence.
Joe Gim, prosecutor and the Chief of the new Hate Crimes Bureau at the Nassau County DA Office next discussed the role of the Prosecutors’ Committee in the AAVTF, which was primarily to shed light on criminal statutes and on the gaps between law enforcement’s understanding and implementation of these statutes. This information, Joe explained, is used to strengthen AABANY’s initiatives and advocacy efforts.
Chris affirmed this statement, reiterating his thanks to the AAVTF and the indispensable support it provides in leading the conversation about anti-Asian violence. Chris also pointed out that any movements that fight back against hate, regardless of which group is targeted, are fighting against a common enemy of structural racism.
Yang and Karen Yau went on to promote the Turning the Tide (T3) Project, which is hosted at the Asian American Law Fund of New York (AALFNY) to raise money for the AAVTF’s initiatives, research, and advocacy combating anti-Asian hate and violence. Karen King also gave a special shoutout to the HEART initiative, encouraging the attendees to volunteer their time to help connect victims of anti-Asian violence with legal aid and other resources. She also encouraged attendees to involve their law firms as sponsors for projects and events.
Chris then closed the presentation by pointing out how the police’s lackluster response to hate crimes is in part due to the historical invisibility of the AAPI community. He also explained how this invisibility has its roots in the 1853 People v. Hall case where George Hall, a white man, was convicted but then released after murdering a Chinese miner. Chris explained how Hall appealed his release on the basis of a California statute which prevented people of color from testifying against whites. Chris also emphasized that supporting the Black Lives Matter movement does not detract from support for the AAPI cause. To illustrate the importance of building a multi-racial coalition, Chris recounted an interview he had with the celebrated documentary director Spike Lee for his film about New York City and race that will be released in September 2021. Lee explained that he had chosen to interview Chris because “people were asking where the Asians were. And I listened.”
After the presentations, the discussion was opened to the attendees for a question and answer session.
Karen Lin, PBCS Committee Co-Chair asked whether or not AABANY would advocate for including AAPI history in the public school curriculum. Yang answered by reiterating AABANY’s support of any educational initiatives, pointing to AABANY’s trial reenactments project as an example.
AABANY member Jennifer Luo then pointed the discussion towards the lack of successful hate crime prosecutions. Joe explained that law enforcement currently lacks sufficient resources and infrastructure to investigate hate crimes. As hate crimes are unique in that the prosecutor must prove that the perpetrator was motivated to commit the crime due to racial bias, this process requires more investigation and information which the police currently lacks. To address this issue, Joe also proposed creating a database of hate crimes and bias incidents that would allow law enforcement to easily access information and also to enable community members to report incidents more efficiently. He also mentioned the newly minted COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would allocate funding towards combating hate crimes. Chris also added that AABANY is planning a Candidates’ Forum that would give AABANY and its members an opportunity to ask about measures being considered to protect the AAPI community from violence.
David Ahn then asked about AABANY’s plans to monitor hate crimes going forward. Chris answered by citing AABANY’s involvement in a case in Flushing, Queens where the perpetrator, despite revealing his racist sentiments in a text sent to the New York Times, was not charged with a hate crime. After AABANY’s advocacy in the DA’s Office, the perpetrator was charged with a hate crime. Chris also added that, though not every case would lead to a hate crime enhancement, AABANY is continuing to monitor the news and other outlets for advocacy opportunities. Yang also explained that the HEART initiative would help AABANY keep track of the incidents, connect with the community, and improve AABANY’s advocacy efforts. Karen Yau also pointed out that there are other alternatives to criminal prosecutions that victims would be able to pursue if they wished.
Chris then shared his own experiences with anti-Asian violence growing up, recounting a story where his friends were assaulted by a white supremacist gang while exiting a movie theater in Queens. He also described his efforts to reconnect with them hoping to preserve their stories and voices as a part of the history of anti-Asian violence.
AABANY Treasurer William Hao also discussed his own involvement in the aftermath of the Atlanta shootings while on a call with former U.S. Attorney Byung J. (“BJay”) Pak, the FBI, and local law enforcement. Will shared that even though the media had severely twisted the narrative by promoting the perpetrator’s claim that he had not been motivated by racism, the call served to give Asians a voice in revealing the truth of the events and reshaping the story. Will concluded by emphasizing the importance of AAPI representation in government and law enforcement.
Marilyn Go (USMJ EDNY, ret’d) then asked about AABANY’s ability to speak out during majority political forums. Chris answered by pointing out the difficulty of entering majority forums, but also noted that events recorded on Zoom would allow AABANY to hold candidates accountable for their words. Yang also referenced the City Council District One Candidates’ Forum which did take questions from AABANY regarding the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force. Jennifer then asked about the possibility of keeping a record of candidates’ responses regarding issues of anti-Asian violence. Chris responded that AABANY’s future plans to hold a Manhattan DA Candidates’ forum would allow AABANY to record responses from the candidates on that issue.
AABANY thanks all of the attendees for their time and their commitment to serving the AAPI community. To view the recording of the event, click here.