On August 21, 2023, AsAm News published a piece written by Rachel Phua titled “The Pandemic Emergency May Be Over, But Anti-Asian Hate Is Not.” AABANY was featured in this article, which details the alarming ongoing hate crimes against Asians in America and its effects on Asian-Americans.
The research of Dr. Elaine Chiu, law professor at St. John’s University and past chair of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, was cited to describe the discrepancy between official statistics and AABANY’s statistics regarding anti-Asian hate crimes. The article notes “although official statistics show that anti-Asian hate crime rates have fallen, AABANY found 233 anti-Asian incidents in New York City over the first three quarters of 2021, compared to 118 hate crimes the NYPD reported.”
In response to these persisting crime rates, AABANY has been pushing for hate crime prosecution reforms. The article noted that “AABANY wants the state and city to lower the standards needed to prove a hate crime, partly by changing the phrase ‘in substantial part’ to ‘in part,’ and including all offenses — unless explicitly excluded from the law — as possible acts of hate.” Chris Kwok, co-chair of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, said they are working with state lawmakers to introduce a bill to update the law.
Yang Chen, AABANY’s Executive Director, was quoted in the article stating that “before Covid came, Trump had already reoriented the US-China relationship. Covid set Trump on fire,” and noted lingering concerns over foreign policy rhetoric at the federal level.
On October 19, 2023, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) celebrated its 34th Anniversary with its Third Annual Founders’ Day, held at FTI Consulting, at their Midtown West Manhattan office. This annual event celebrates the establishment of AABANY as a bar association in 1989. AABANY pays tribute to its visionary Founders who played a critical role in laying the groundwork for AABANY’s emergence as the nation’s largest affinity bar association, currently with more than 1700 paid members.
The night opened with a light reception, as members trickled into the venue. Conversation flowed freely as attendees shared fond memories and anecdotes about AABANY. AABANY’s Membership Director, Christopher Bae gave welcoming remarks, introducing the lineup of speakers. He then passed the floor to Karen Kim, AABANY’s President, who provided an overview of the organization and shared her perspective on AABANY’s development in recent years Her speech underscored the organization’s remarkable growth, emerging as a vibrant and inclusive community of legal practitioners.
Following her, past AABANY President (2014-2015), Glenn Lau-Kee, delivered a moving speech as the event’s keynote speaker. With great depth and insight, Glenn delved into the origins of our organization, offering a captivating narrative of its founding journey and the challenges its first members faced. Glenn’s words struck a chord with the legal professionals in attendance, serving as a poignant reminder of AABANY’s remarkable journey. As Glenn concluded his speech, he was faced with a wave of resounding applause. His words had a profound impact on the attendees, leaving a sense of gravity in the air as they continued to mingle, network, and enjoy food and drinks.
Executive Director Yang Chen also spoke, reminding attendees of AABANY’s many milestones over the years. He highlighted Chris Kwok’s work on the Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, speaking at length regarding the two vital reports that the Task Force released. Furthermore, he talked about the short film recently released by the Task Force, “ Voices against Anti-Asian Hate.” Attendees were invited to screen the short film at the event. Yang Chen explained that the video was slightly updated from the version first screened at the Fall Conference, and he invited attendees who watched it at Founders’ Day to share their feedback before the film is finalized and released to the general public. Those who saw the video offered positive feedback with some useful suggestions for the Task Force to consider.
Many notable AABANY leaders and members were present at this year’s Founders’ Day, including Hon. Marilyn Go (Ret.), founding AABANY member Hugh Mo, Anti-Asian Task Force Chair Chris Kwok, and many Board members and Committee Chairs. “[I am] thrilled to have been able to spend time with AABANY’s range of members, in particular some of its founders,” exclaimed Jason Sabot, Senior Managing Director at FTI consulting. “The organization is so central to supporting and furthering Asian American interests in New York. Thank you for all you do, AABANY.”
As the event drew to a close, Beatrice Leong, AABANY’s Vice President of Programs and Operations, aptly captured the sentiment of the evening, stating: “Tonight is proof that AABANY will last through the centuries— we began with just a handful of founders, and now we’ve grown into a thriving and expansive community. The legal professionals in the audience tonight exemplify the unity of the AAPI legal community, solidifying AABANY’s lasting presence as both an organization and an institution.”
Our gratitude goes out to Christopher S. Bae, AABANY’s Membership Director, and the dedicated Membership Committee for their outstanding efforts in organizing this wonderful event. AABANY also thanks FTI Consulting for generously providing the venue, food, and drinks for Founders’ Day, as well as their enduring support and partnership. AABANY is delighted to mark its 34th anniversary with the esteemed guests in attendance. We look forward to celebrating AABANY’s 35th anniversary in 2024!
Chris Kwok, Chair of AABANY’s Issues Committee, continues to empower Asian voices in America, serving as a lead scholar on Hidden Voices: Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States. This curriculum guide is part of the New York City Department of Education’s Hidden Voices Project, dedicated to educating NYC students about marginalized peoples’ roles in shaping our history and identity. Chris co-authored the introduction to Hidden Voices, contributing to An Overview of Asian American and Pacific Islander History.
Chris has harbored a life-long passion for education. “At heart I’ve always been an educator— I think I went to law school because I knew that I was going to teach one day,” Chris explained. “I didn’t know how or what or where, I just built my experience and waited for an opportunity.” Pursuing his dreams, Chris went on to UCLA Law School after his undergraduate education at Cornell, focusing on critical race theory during his time there. Currently, Chris serves as a mediator with JAMS, and an adjunct professor at Hunter College, simultaneously pursuing his love for education and law.
Regarding his work on the Hidden Voices project, Chris remains humble, elaborating that “it’s a huge team, and I’m just one small part of it.” As an adjunct professor, Chris had the opportunity to delve into Asian American studies, a subject close to his heart. His passion for education and his desire to bring Asian American experiences and narratives to the forefront aligned perfectly with the goals of the Hidden Voices Project. When Vivian Louie, Director of Hunter’s Asian American Studies program, introduced Chris to the project, he eagerly embraced the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on education and advocate for Asian American voices. The project is now free to access for students beyond New York state, across the country. “It’s publicly available to everyone as a free resource, which is great, because honestly we’re so large — we’re the largest school district in the country— so smaller school districts that want to do this can just come to that website and download comic books, posters; all sorts of great resources,” stated Chris enthusiastically.
This curriculum follows legislation proposed by New York State Senator John Liu, mandating the inclusion of AAPI history in schools across the state. It will be the mainstay of a new pilot program launched by the Department of Education, designed to teach students K-12 about the contributions, culture, and history of the Asian American community. “New York City houses the largest school system in the country,” said Chris. “We’ve got 1.2 million students— that’s about half of all the students in New York State. So right now, basically half the students in New York have access to this curriculum.” The launch of this program reflects the needs of the growing AAPI population in New York. According to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, API is the fastest growing racial group in NYC, with the number of residents more than doubling from 490,000 in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2019.
Chris expounded that “this [project] is really about students studying a curriculum where they can see people like themselves, the struggles and also the successes. Before this, they could have looked at the curriculum and [would see] only stories of rich people, leaders, white people – after a while, if you don’t think about it, you’ll think those are the only people that matter.” He hopes that the Hidden Voices project will help “open the lens of history in New York schools to include people who are affecting society from every angle, including the margins.”
Stressing the primacy of education, Chris declared: “It’s foundational and it’s slow, but it’s about people understanding their role, getting engaged with their local sphere to make the framework of the society we live in more fair…. It’s about a thousand little things that separately don’t seem to work together, but in the end, we have large scale social change.” The importance of education became even more pronounced in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic: In 2021, hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers were up 361% over the previous year. By educating students about the diverse experiences and contributions of Asian Americans, these initiatives promote unity, understanding, and cohesion within our communities. The mission of Hidden Voices aligns with Chris’ past work, including the reports published by AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force.
While this project is currently completed, Chris hopes that he will be able to work on part two, covering more key AAPI figures and historical events. However, there are no plans for that currently on the horizon. “If the public clamors for it,” Chris surmised, “then that will probably be more likely.” Chris encourages members of AABANY to actively support and promote the project, sharing its resources with those in their communities.
To access “Hidden Voices: Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States,” click here.
The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) submitted a letter on April 24, 2023 to the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) expressing concern about the ongoing issue of anti-Asian hate and violence in the United States, particularly in New York. In the letter, we highlighted the increase in incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic and outlined the efforts of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF) in addressing these issues, including hosting webinars, publishing reports, advocating for legislative changes, and providing resources to support victims. While we appreciate the USCCR for drawing attention to anti-Asian crimes, we believe that there is much more work to be done. AABANY presented three recommendations to combat anti-Asian hate crimes: improved hate crime data reporting, recognition of the community as a victim and investigative partner, and appropriate training for prosecutors and law enforcement. We emphasized the importance of collaboration between the government, law enforcement, and community organizations to ensure the safety of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community.
To read AABANY’s public comment in its entirety, please click here. AABANY gratefully acknowledges the efforts of Chris Kwok, Issues Committee Chair, and AABANY Student Leaders Jinny Lim, J.D. candidate, Seton Hall Law School ‘24, and Catherine Tran, J.D. Candidate, Columbia Law School ‘25, in preparing this submission.
On May 22 and 23, 2023, AABANY members Yen-Yi Anderson, Vishal Chander, Chris Kwok, Rachel Lee, and Nandar Win Kerr converged on Washington D.C. for National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Lobby Day. Each year, NAPABA organizes the event to educate members of Congress on issues of importance to the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. NAPABA Lobby Day is scheduled to coincide with AANHPI Heritage Month in May of each year.
AABANY members met with the legislative staff of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. They discussed issues such as support for the LGBTQ+ community, protection of the right to counsel in immigration, mental health support for AANHPI and other diverse communities, profiling persons of Chinese ancestry, state passage of alien land laws, and AANHPI judicial and executive nominees.
Rachel Lee, an associate at Allen & Overy LLP, shared, “I am happy to have participated in NAPABA Lobby Day this year. It was an educational and eye-opening experience to learn about different issues impacting the AANHPI community and be able to advocate for our community on Capitol Hill at various congressional offices with fellow NAPABA members. I highly recommend the program and would participate again in the future.”
NAPABA is the nation’s largest Asian Pacific American membership organization representing the interest of 60,000 attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA Lobby Day activities include a 3-Part Training Event, Congressional office visits, and an AANHPI Heritage Month Congressional Reception.
Written By: Vishal Chander, active AABANY member and Co-Chair, Solo & Small Firm Practice Committee
On November 12, 2022, members of AABANY went to see “Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story,” which had its world premiere at the DOC NYC festival at the SVA Theatre. Thank you to Board Member and Issues Committee Chair Chris Kwok for organizing this event.
The film documented Corky Lee’s life and career as the “undisputed unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate.”
Corky was a long time photographer for various AABANY events including our Annual Dinner, and a beloved friend to many AABANY members. Past AABANY member Lily Fan was one of the executive producers. AABANY members Rocky Chin and Kevin Hsi and past AABANY member Hon. Randall Eng appeared in the film.
Those from AABANY who attended uniformly gave the film an enthusiastic thumbs up. We were pleased to see AABANY listed among the community groups that Corky Lee worked with during his decades of photo-activism. We highly recommend everyone to see the film.
On October 25, 2022, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) celebrated its 33rd Anniversary with its Second Annual Founders’ Day Event at Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services’ (JAMS) space in the New York Times building in Manhattan. The annual event commemorates the founding of AABANY as a bar association in 1989 and honors the Founders who helped build the foundation for AABANY to become the largest diverse bar association in the country.
The Honorable Denny Chin, United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, gave remarks as the Founders’ Day keynote speaker. He spoke about AABANY’s early days and the fight for diversity and Asian representation in the legal profession. He recounted the challenges that he and his colleagues faced during his time as AABANY’s second president. He concluded by urging members not to rest on their laurels but to continue to fight for the needs of Asian Americans in the legal community. AABANY President William Ng also gave remarks while Hon. Marilyn Go, longtime AABANY member Hugh Mo, Executive Director Yang Chen, and many other AABANY leaders and members attended the celebration.
We would like to thank AABANY Board Member Chris Kwok and his colleagues at JAMS for hosting Founders’ Day, along with Membership Director Christopher S. Bae and the Membership Committee for organizing such a great event. AABANY is proud to have celebrated its 33rd anniversary with so many distinguished guests, and we look forward to celebrating our 34th next year at our Third Annual Founders’ Day Event.
On August 16th, 2022, AABANY’s Litigation and ADR Committees, along with JAMS, co-sponsored a CLE panel about international arbitration. AABANY ADR Committee Chair and JAMS Neutral Chris M. Kwok gave opening remarks, and AABANY Litigation Committee Co-Chair Aakruti G. Vakharia of Haug Partners moderated the panel. The panelists were Hiro Aragaki, JAMS Neutral and Professor of Law; Margaret Ives, in-house counsel at Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Limited; and Dr. Kabir Duggal of Arnold & Porter. The panel discussed the differences between litigation and arbitration, the benefits of international arbitration over cross-border litigation, the challenges of arbitrating internationally, the mechanics of international arbitration, and best practices for what to include and what to avoid when drafting a dispute resolution clause. The panel encompassed neutral, outside counsel, in-house counsel, and academic perspectives
Thank you to everyone who worked on and attended this CLE. We greatly appreciate Niki Borofsky, Christine Smith, Alison M., Margaret Poppe, Todd Drucker, Jazmine Smith, Corey Taylor, and Matthew P. York of JAMS collaborating with AABANY’s Litigation Committee, co-chaired by Aakruti G. Vakharia, Jennifer Wu, Lois Ahn, and ADR committee, led by Chris M. Kwok (Chair) and May Li (Vice Chair), all of whom put together this interesting and informative program.
On June 10, 2022, CUNY’s Asian American/Asian Research Institute (AAARI)hosted a discussion to address the Endless Tide report published by AABANY on May 31. The discussion was co-led by AABANY’s Board Director and Issues Committee Chair, Chris Kwok, and Megan Gao, Vice Chair of the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee. Chris is also a Co-Executive Editor of the report and Megan is an Associate Editor. As the report continues to gain media attention and publicity, various AAPI community groups have referred to Endless Tide and AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF) to bring their issues and concerns to government officials in New York City.
In publishing the Endless Tide report, Megan mentioned that lawyers can make a unique contribution by using the criminal justice system as a way to analyze how anti-Asian hate crimes have been prosecuted in New York City. By tracking the number of complaints and arrests that the New York Police Department made, the authors of Endless Tide were able to offer a legal analysis that details how the system has affected and impacted our AAPI neighborhoods and communities. In their research, they found that publicly available data does not track a hate incident from initial report to final resolution. In fact, the AAVTF learned about the disposition of outstanding cases by meeting directly with various District Attorney’s offices.
At the event, they invited David Kim, a survivor of an anti-Asian attack featured in the report. David’s case was an example of the indifference he encountered in getting a District Attorney’s Office to pursue a hate crimes prosecution. David and his friends were harassed and physically threatened after a vehicle collision at the intersection of 149th Street and 34th Avenue on June 4, 2020. They were taunted by the alleged perpetrators and called racist epithets, forcing them to stay in their car until a 911 call was made – to which the police took time to respond to. With the incident happening at the peak of the pandemic, the victims were also yelled at and blamed for causing COVID-19. After the incident, Kim wanted to file a report to the precinct and pursue a case against his perpetrators. However, after meeting with the District Attorney’s office, with the assistance of counsel, they were told that the District Attorney’s office decided that no charges, including hate crime charges, would be brought. To date, no explanation has been given for this decision.
Hearing David’s story, Chris and Megan highlighted how the title Endless Tide reflects the ongoing racial discrimination towards Asians and Asian Americans. In an effort to address and assist the members of the community that have experienced bias incidents or hate crimes, AABANY created the Hate Eradication Active Response Team (HEART). David and his attorneys came to HEART after their requests to the District Attorney’s Office to pursue hate crimes prosecutions proved futile. Ultimately, the Endless Tide report and the AAVTF seek to encourage discussion with government officials and other organizations to take a closer look at how we can address the hate, violence, and discrimination faced by the AAPI community in New York City.
To watch the recording of the event, please click here or on the image above. To contact AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, send an email to email@example.com.
It was unseasonably warm on Thursday, December 16, when the Academic Committee hosted their Annual Holiday Lunch in the outdoor dining structure at Wu’s Wonton King in Manhattan Chinatown. Although Academic Committee Co-Chair Tom Lee (Fordham) wasn’t able to make it, Co-Chairs Elaine Chiu (St. John’s), Catherine Kim (Brooklyn), and Donna Lee (CUNY) happily hosted a select gathering, including Board Liaison Suzanne Kim, for a delicious holiday lunch that included shrimp & pork wonton (naturally), as well as a whole fried fish, crispy chicken, and a variety of dim sum dishes. All were grateful to AABANY member Chris Kwok for curating the menu, and to members Francis Chin and Shirley Lin for gracing the gathering with their presence. Lunch conversation ranged far and wide, and included discussion of emojis, and particularly the yellow colored “hands” on Zoom, e.g., the thumb’s up and thank you/high five/prayer emojis. Luncheon participants discussed the importance of distinguishing between “YBD” and “YBC.” Ask yourselves and your colleagues – are you “yellow by default” or “yellow by choice”? Happy Holidays to All! To learn more about the Academic Committee go to https://www.aabany.org/page/352.