On January 4, 2022, City Limits published an article entitled, “As NY Redistricting Forges Forward, Asian American Groups Push for ‘Unity Map’” detailing an independent coalition’s efforts to establish more equitable districts in the state.
As the redistricting process continues in New York, a coalition of three civil rights legal groups—the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Center for Law and Social Justice, and Latino Justice—seek to combat the fragmentation of minority communities. Altogether forming the Unity Map Coalition, the groups’ proposed “Unity Map” recognizes the rapid growth of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in New York and aims to preserve the political power of communities whose interests have historically been undermined in the redistricting process.
If adopted by Governor Kathy Hochul, the “Unity Map” would replace drafts developed by the state Independent Redistricting Commission, drafts which have been influenced by the coalition’s input but that have failed to fully address issues relayed by community members. Legal groups, such as AABANY, in addition to pro-democracy groups have signed onto a letter requesting another opportunity from state lawmakers to provide public comment before the governor approves draft maps.
This December, the Best Under 40 Award will be presented at the 2021 National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”) Convention in Washington, D.C. to honor outstanding attorneys and organizations that have made an impact within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) community. Every year, NAPABA recognizes talented AAPI attorneys under the age of forty from around the country who have achieved prominence and distinction in their fields of endeavor. Recipients are selected on the basis of two factors: first, demonstrated success and professionalism in the practice of law; and second, a commitment to the AAPI community. Among those being honored will be David Sohn, a Deputy Bureau Chief at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and a valued member of AABANY’s Board of Directors, who has been named one of NAPABA’s Best Under 40 for 2021.
A prosecutor, father, and husband, David has not only taken an exceptional career path but has also shown a continuous and inspiring dedication to the AAPI community. David has achieved the first criterion of consideration for this award, a demonstrated success and professionalism in the practice of law, in various ways. David attended The George Washington University where he studied international affairs and interned for government agencies throughout his undergraduate career. After graduating from The George Washington University, David went on to receive his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and developed an interest in criminal law after taking the class in law school. Upon graduating, he briefly worked at a law firm that represented plaintiffs in an antitrust case. With the help of AABANY’s network, David later joined the Kings County District Attorney’s Office where he enjoys the process of finding out the truth and representing the interests of all constituents. As a prosecutor, David is able to find a sense of achieving justice for everyone which includes the defendants and the community and not just the victims.
David has exemplified the second criterion for the award by demonstrating a commitment to the AAPI community through his leadership and passion outside of his professional pursuits. Since joining AABANY, David has become a dedicated driver of meaningful participation of AAPIs in the legal profession. Over the years, he has held multiple leadership positions at the committee and board level. David joined AABANY where he planned many social events to facilitate networking and followed this trend at KALAGNY where he worked with and later led the gala-planning committee. David is vocal about the need for more government attorneys in the AAPI community. AAPI attorneys are prominent at entry-level positions but there is a need for more representation at supervisory levels. As Regional Governor at NAPABA, David has actively advocated for making the convention more affordable for government attorneys.
David attributes much of his success to the mentors and people he has met along his journey. Early in his career, David adopted a “work hard” mentality. He eventually realized the importance of networking and asking for advice. David always aspired to work as a prosecutor but never received a response until he began to network through AABANY. When asked what advice he has for aspiring lawyers, David said his best recommendations are to listen to people’s successes, but more importantly, listen to people who share their failures. David provided an anecdote about how he got dropped after a round of interviews for jobs after his 3L year of law school, but remained positive. He states, “Be positive, work your ass off, don’t complain.” David strongly encourages law students and young attorneys to join bar associations like AABANY and to become active members of the legal community.
Outside of his career, David and his family love to travel. His favorite places to visit are Seoul and Paris. David tends to go to Korea every year to see family and also enjoys going to the beaches on Jeju Island.
AABANY congratulates David on receiving NAPABA’s Best Under 40 Award. The Best Under 40 Award reception will be on December 9th at the 2021 NAPABA Convention. The award will be presented during NAPABA’s 33rd Anniversary Gala on December 11.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”) will be holding their Annual Convention this December in Washington, D.C. Among those being honored by NAPABA with their 2021 Best Under 40 Award will be William Ng, a shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C. and the President-Elect of AABANY. Every year NAPABA selects a group of talented young Asian American and Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) attorneys who are under the age of 40 from across the United States. Recipients of the award are judged on two factors: first, excellence and professionalism in the field of law and second, a commitment to impacting the AAPI community for the better. Will has demonstrated both throughout his illustrious career.
Will has fulfilled the first criteria of the award by demonstrating excellence in the legal profession in a variety of ways. After graduating from St. John’s University School of Law, Will began his career by working for the New York City Law Department’s Tort Division where he represented numerous city agencies including the police and fire departments in personal injury and civil rights cases. Will then transferred to the Labor and Employment Law Division, which provided him invaluable federal court litigation experience defending the City of New York, one of the largest public employers in the nation. In his current practice at Littler, Will focuses on defending private and public employers in employment litigation matters as well as wage and hour class actions. In addition to his litigation practice, Will regularly counsels employers on their workplace policies and practices for compliance with federal, state and local employment laws.
Will has fulfilled the second criteria of the award through his work in AABANY as well as working to help AAPI-owned companies in the hospitality, financial services, health care, retail, real estate, and transportation industries at Littler. Furthermore, Will has continued to drive AABANY’s mission and has held numerous leadership positions for the past 10 years within AABANY including founding the Labor and Employment Law Committee and serving as Co-Chair of the Young Lawyers, Government and Public Sector (now Government Service and Public Interest), and Student Outreach Committees.
Will’s drive for professional excellence as well as support of meaningful participation by the AAPI community stems from his parents who owned a local business. As a native New Yorker, Will has been around local business owners throughout his life. Will saw the hardships that minority-owned businesses faced and believed that the best way he could contribute to the AAPI community was to give back through his work with AABANY and other nonprofit organizations. He is proud to represent a large number of AAPI local businesses as part of his regular practice. Most recently Will, as a panel member of AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service, has defended Chinatown businesses that have been sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These lawsuits have targeted landlords and small business owners in Chinatown and have the potential to shut down these local businesses. Will is committed to helping these merchants and property owners defend against these ADA lawsuits while also providing advice on how to comply with various laws and regulations.
When asked what advice he has for aspiring lawyers, Will responded that they should focus on the potential areas of law that might fit their interests and strengths but they should also take opportunities to meet people and learn about their work in industries and fields “that might not be in [their] comfort zone.” Will also highly recommends getting involved in organizations such as AABANY which he describes as an “umbrella group that is home to so many different people from all walks of life.” Will believes that being part of an organization like AABANY teaches you “how to interact with different people at different stages of their career.”
The BU40 Award will be presented on December 11 during the Gala Dinner at the NAPABA Convention. Please join AABANY in congratulating Will on this well-deserved honor and recognition.
AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee would like to thank everyone who attended the second and third hybrid Manhattan pro bono clinics in September and October, as well as the soft opening of the Queens pro bono clinic this past Saturday, Oct. 30. The three clinics assisted a total of fifty-five (55) clients, who sought advice on a range of topics, including housing law, immigration, elder law, loans and contracts, marriage and divorce, estates law and drafting of wills and powers of attorney, discrimination, 9/11 compensation, and fraud. PBCS and AABANY are grateful to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) for co-sponsoring and hosting these clinics.
The clinics for the past two months could not have happened without the gracious help of many AABANY members and committees. During the September pro bono clinic, in collaboration with AABANY’s Bankruptcy Committee, PBCS provided a “Know Your Rights” presentation on the topic of bankruptcy and consumer debt. During the October clinics, Rina Gurung and Kevin Hsi, two of the three co-chairs of AABANY’s Government Service and Public Interest Committee, and Zhixian (Jessie) Liu, a co-chair of AABANY’s Immigration Committee, helped PBCS out by volunteering to see clients for one-on-one informational consultations. Thanks to AABANY’s Committees for their camaraderie!
At the pro bono clinics, PBCS volunteers use quick issue-spotting skills to help members of the AAPI community and those with limited English proficiency know what their rights are. For instance, while answering housing questions, a volunteer discovered that a 70-year-old couple living at a rent-stabilized apartment was eligible for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exception (SCRIE). SCRIE is a program that allows qualified tenants to have their rent frozen at their current level and be exempt from future rent increases. This is crucial since most seniors depend on their fixed income. If their rent goes up, qualified SCRIE tenants do not have to pay the higher rent, as the City will pay the landlord the difference between the current rent and the future rent. The 70-year-old couple who came into the PBCS clinic will receive assistance from AAFE to apply for SCRIE.
In order to be eligible for SCRIE, an applicant must be 62 years or older, have less than $50,000 in household income, spend more than 1/3 of monthly income on rent, and reside in a NYC rent-stabilized apartment, rent-controlled apartment, rent-regulated hotel or single room occupancy unit, Mitchell-Lama development, Limited Dividend Housing Company development, Redevelopment Company development, or Housing Development Fund Company development. Senior citizens who own homes, condominiums or private non-government supervised co-ops may also be eligible for SCRIE. To learn more about SCRIE, see https://access.nyc.gov/programs/senior-citizens-rent-increase-exemption-%E2%80%8Bscrie/.
To learn more about the PBCS Committee and its work, click here and here. The next hybrid legal clinics will take place on Saturday, November 6, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at AAFE, 2 Allen Street (2nd Floor), New York, NY 10002; and Saturday, November 13, 2021, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at CCBA, 62 Mott Street (2nd Floor), New York, NY 10013. For up-to-date details about the clinic and other events, please check PBCS’s event calendar.
And as always, we are always looking for volunteers to help us out!
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 June 29, Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) Board Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair Margaret Ling moderated the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy (CBLA) Opening Program titled: “Effective Marketing, Advocacy and Public Relations Strategy.” The panelists for the event were Edgar Chen, Esq., National Policy Director for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA); Elia Diaz-Yaeger, Esq., President of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA); Tricia “CK” Hoffler, Esq., President of the National Bar Association (NBA); and Dinesh Kumar, Esq., Vice President of Public Relations for the South Asian Bar Association (SABA) of North America. The panelists discussed the role of minority bar associations in facing widespread social and political issues as well as the unique voice of advocacy that minority bar associations can utilize. The discussion also explored different ways of reaching membership through websites, newsletters, and other methods.
AABANY thanks Karl Riley, the Chair of the CBLA, for organizing the panel event as well as ABA for hosting the discussion at such a critical moment for the Asian-American community.
AABANY’s Manhattan DA Candidates’ Forum held on June 15 and 16 was recently covered in a June 21 Law360 article titled “Manhattan DA Candidates Split Over Hate Crime Strategy.” In the run up to the primary election on June 22, AABANY posed questions to seven Democratic candidates (Tahanie Aboushi, Alvin Bragg, Liz Crotty, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Diana Florence, Lucy Lang, and Eliza Orlins) and one Republican candidate (Thomas Kenniff) on issues important to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, specifically related to how they would address the surge in anti-Asian violence in New York City. Most of the candidates stated that they would use enhancements to charge perpetrators of hate crimes. In addition, most of the candidates supported creating a hate crimes unit in the DA’s Office, which is one of the proposals offered in AABANY and Paul, Weiss’ report on anti-Asian violence. Only Tahanie Aboushi and Eliza Orlins pledged they would cut the district attorney’s office budget in half. By decreasing the prosecution of low-level offenses, Aboushi and Orlins said the office would be able to focus on more serious crimes, including hate crimes that involve violence. The Law360 article also incorporated Democratic DA Candidate Dan Quart’s stances on the questions posed at the Forum as he was not able to participate due to a prior engagement.
To read the full article, click here. To view the recordings of AABANY’s Manhattan DA Candidates’ Forum, click here for day 1 (Lucy Lang, Alvin Bragg, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, and Tahanie Aboushi) and here for day 2 (Diana Florence, Thomas Kenniff, Eliza Orlins, and Liz Crotty).
Vincent T. Chang, active member of AABANY since 2000 and former AABANY President in 2007, was inducted as the first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) President of the New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) on May 28, 2021. In his new role, Vince is prepared to lead NYCLA in supporting diverse communities, reaching out to more young attorneys and law students, and closing the justice gap to serve those in the community who are most in need.
Since high school, Vince gravitated towards pursuing a career in the legal profession. Involved in both his high school and college debate teams, Vince found overlapping aspects between debate and law. In presenting an argument, he noticed both involve research, assembly of evidence, and oral presentation. After graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School, he clerked for the Honorable Robert Krupansky of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit before joining Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in 1989. Being familiar with litigation from his experience in debate and serving as a judicial clerk in a Federal appellate court, Vince chose to practice in litigation. Currently, Vince is a Litigation Partner at Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch LLP in New York specializing in complex commercial litigation matters in the financial industry, including investment banking, hedge funds, and mortgage backed securities.
Outside of his work at the law firm, Vince is an active member of numerous bar associations and organizations, and has served and continues to serve in various leadership positions. To name a few, Vince previously served on the New York State Bar Association Committee of Bar Leaders, on the Board of Directors at Legal Services NYC, and is currently the Vice President of the Asian American Law Fund of New York. Although he might be affectionately called a “Bar Junkie,” Vince did not participate in bar association work until later on in his career.
The first bar association Vince joined was AABANY, and he appreciated both the social and intellectual aspects of the association. He enjoyed the opportunity to learn about different areas of law while also being able to network and meet prominent lawyers. One of his fondest memories of serving as President of AABANY in 2007 was hosting the Annual Dinner because it was a rare event for 500 to 600 AAPI lawyers, including General Counsels and Judges, to all gather in the same room in New York City. This was especially significant because at the time there were at most 400 members in AABANY compared to the 1,500 members AABANY has now.
At AABANY, Vince also played a prominent role in organizing the AABANY Trial Reenactments. With a goal to educate lawyers and the public about the notable trials and cases in U.S. history involving AAPIs, Vince assisted Judge Denny Chin and Kathy Hirata Chin to develop scripts for the productions. Since 2007, Vince has starred as a cast member in numerous reenactments at the annual NAPABA conventions and at other events. He most recently played Fred Korematsu in the “Fred Korematsu and His Fight For Justice” reenactment in November 2019 at the NAPABA convention.
Today, Vince is the first AAPI President of NYCLA, which was the first bar association to admit women and lawyers of color into its membership. He views his role as both an honor and a serious responsibility—an honor because past presidents include esteemed individuals and a responsibility because of his duty to represent AAPIs and serve as a role model. At a time when diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of many bar associations’ and law firms’ missions, NYCLA plans to be more interactive with young lawyers, especially diverse attorneys, by reaching out to law schools, affinity bar groups, and law firms. Vince also plans for NYCLA to remain relevant on public policy issues and respond to them in a timely manner. He hopes that “taking positions that affect diverse communities will make them notice and realize NYCLA is on their side.”
A common theme of Vince’s work is the pursuit of justice to not only improve the legal profession, but to also improve the quality of legal representation for individuals in the community. He has served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to review federal judicial nominees; sat on a NYCLA panel at a public hearing to address the impact of budget cuts on the Judiciary; served on the Disciplinary Committee for the First Department to prosecute disciplinary complaints against lawyers in Manhattan; and worked on other initiatives to minimize the justice gap. Vince plans to continue working on this at NYCLA as “access to justice is a hallmark of what bar associations and NYCLA are aiming for.” One program NYCLA has planned is to support attorneys who represent indigent persons through the Assigned Counsel Plan (18b). Under the proposed program, by increasing the rate at which assigned counsel are paid, there will hopefully be an increase of lawyers interested in doing 18b work, which will further decrease the access-to-justice gap. NYCLA also hopes to revive their Special Masters Program to provide an opportunity for young attorneys to gain experience working with the court system, and to close the gap between court workload and staff gap. At NYCLA’s AAPI Heritage Month Celebration on June 2nd, Vince vowed to continue to uphold NYCLA’s focus on sustaining the rule of law including the importance of practicing diversity, equity and inclusion in furtherance of fairness and justice for all.
Please join AABANY in congratulating Vince on becoming the first AAPI President of NYCLA and for doing all the work he does to support communities. We wish Vince great success in his vital new role as NYCLA President! To learn more about NYCLA, visit its website at https://www.nycla.org/. AABANY members who join NYCLA for the first time are eligible to receive 50% off their annual dues the first year and 25% off the second year. For more details, click here.
The Reception is the main fundraising event of the Asian American Law Fund of NY and provides funding for our projects which include, among others, our Public Interest Scholarships, the Turning the Tide Project and the AABANY Pro Bono Clinic.
While not a requirement for attendance at the event, we would be delighted if you or your firm would demonstrate support of the Fund by making a donation. The donation would be acknowledged on the Fund’s website. The various contribution levels are detailed below. The Fund is a 501(c) (3) entity and contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by applicable law.
Feel free to circulate this announcement to any interested lawyers and law students. There is no charge for attendance. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
The Asian American Law Fund of New York awards Public Interest Scholarships each year to law students with a demonstrated commitment to the Asian American community. The purpose of the award is to assist law students with their tuition while encouraging them to use their legal knowledge and training to benefit the Asian American community in New York and to foster commitment by law students to public service to the Asian American community in New York. Since 1997, AALFNY has funded more than 60 public interest scholarships to law students.
The Asian American Law Fund of New York was established in 1993 by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) to create and support non-profit and charitable efforts to eliminate prejudice and discrimination and to defend human and civil rights.
On May 21, in observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service (LRIS) hosted an event titled “A Brief History of Anti-Asian Racism in America and Call to Action” to raise funds for Welcome to Chinatown’s Longevity Fund. Welcome to Chinatown is a grassroots initiative working to preserve New York City’s Chinatown by supporting small businesses and amplifying community voices. In 2020, they launched The Longevity Fund, a small business relief program, to support small businesses where cultural and socioeconomic barriers have prevented them from applying for assistance programs.
The first part of the fundraising event consisted of a presentation from Chris Kwok, AABANY Board Director, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair, and Issues Committee Chair, on the history of anti-Asian racism in America. He provided an overview of the history of sinophobia and anti-Asian violence in the United States, highlighting the passage of laws including the Naturalization Act of 1790, the Page Act of 1875, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Chris also shared the common themes of how Asian Americans have been perceived throughout history and are still seen today as “forever foreign.”
The presentation was followed by an informal Q&A session between Moderator Tiffany Miao, and William Ng, AABANY President-Elect and LRIS Panel Member, on the importance of AAPI representation in the legal profession and how AAPI lawyers can play a role in preserving Asian cultures and communities for future generations. After listening to Chris’ presentation, William spoke about how the history of sinophobia in the U.S. was never taught in school and how it is important to push towards adding it to school curriculums. Chris added that it’s critical for individuals to understand how race works with Asian Americans—although there’s similarity with how African Americans and Jews experience race, there are still differences and nuances. As for how AAPI lawyers can support AAPI communities, William stated, “While it’s a good career opportunity to do meaningful work, this time in particular, Asian Americans have an opportunity to do more, push certain initiatives.” In addition to representing Asian American clients at work, AAPI lawyers can donate to organizations such as Welcome to Chinatown, and join AABANY’s LRIS to provide legal assistance to the Asian American community.
To join AABANY’s LRIS, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an application. To learn more about Welcome to Chinatown, please visit welcometochinatown.com and check out their Instagram account @welcome.to.chinatown
At the conclusion of the fundraiser, AABANY was able to raise $2000 for The Longevity Fund. Thank you to everyone who joined us for the event, and thanks especially to all the donors for their support.