In the News: AABANY President and Members, Community Partners, and Sponsors Listed Among City & State’s Power of Diversity List of New York’s Top 100 Asian American Leaders

AABANY is excited to announce that President Terrence (Terry) Shen was featured in the 2021 Power of Diversity list of New York’s Top 100 Asian American Leaders published by City & State on July 19, 2021. Terry was recognized as 53rd on the list.

City & State wrote:

As partner at the law firm Kramer Levin, Terrence Shen represents New York’s top corporate interest clients like MVC Capital in its merger with Barings BDC, which represents more than $1.5 billion of assets. Shen is also the president of the Asian American Bar Association of New York. Under his leadership, the association released Know-Your-Rights literature, hosted public forums on rising anti-Asian hate crimes and organized candidate forums for New York’s district attorney races.

Congratulations and thank you to Terry for representing AABANY among New York’s most influential Asian American leaders.

In addition to Terry, several others featured on City & State’s list have worked with or been associated with AABANY, as members, community partners, or sponsors. We extend our congratulations to them as well.

AABANY has had the pleasure of working with Grace Meng, number one on City & State’s list and New York’s first Asian American member of Congress. At the forefront of fighting anti-Asian hate by spearheading COVID-19 hate crimes legislation, she was a speaker at AABANY’s press conference following the release of our anti-Asian violence report A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions in February.

Among the others in the top 10, AABANY has worked with Ron Kim (2), State Assembly Member; John Liu (3), State Senator and first Asian American to serve on the City Council; and Margaret Chin (9), New York City Council Member.

AABANY also congratulates:

  • Sandra Ung (16), New York City Council Primary Winner for District 20 and former AABANY treasurer;
  • Shekar Krishnan (16), New York City Council Primary Winner for District 25 and former AABANY member;
  • Frank Wu (23), President of Queens College, co-author of our most performed trial reenactment, Building Our Legacy: The Murder of Vincent Chin, honoree at the 2021 Virtual Gala, and author of the foreword to our anti-Asian violence report;
  • Carmelyn Malalis (28), Chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights and plenary session speaker at our Fall Conference last year;
  • Faiza Saeed (34), a Presiding Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a Gold Sponsor of AABANY for many years;
  • John Park (35), Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, one of our longtime community partners;
  • Margaret Fung (38), Co-founder and Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of our longtime community partners;
  • Preet Bharara (52), as the first AAPI United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a regular speaker at our annual Prosecutors Reception and an honoree at our Annual Dinner in 2015;
  • My Chi To (54), Executive Deputy Superintendent of the Insurance Division at the New York State Department of Financial Services and former AABANY member;
  • Ruchi Shah (65), President of SABANY, a sister bar association and longtime collaborator with AABANY;
  • Justin Yu (80), Chair of the New York Chinese Chamber of Commerce, an AABANY partner of many years for our walk-in Pro Bono Clinic; and
  • Thomas and Jill Sung (88), Chair and President/CEO, respectively, of Abacus Federal Savings Bank. Thomas’s daughter and Jill’s sister, Vera, is currently an AABANY member.

AABANY is privileged and honored to have worked closely with so many of New York’s most influential AAPI leaders. Congratulations to everyone who made the list, and we look forward to continuing our collaborations and partnerships in the future.

The full City & State article can be found here, starting on page 17.

Historical Society of the New York Courts and the Asian American Judges Association of New York Sponsor a Panel about AAPIs in the Judiciary, May 20

On May 20, the Historical Society of the New York Courts, the Asian American Judges Association of New York, and Meyer Suozzi English & Klein P.C. co-sponsored a panel discussion on the role of Asian Americans in the federal and state judiciary. The panelists of the event were Hon. Pamela K. Chen, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York and AABANY member; Hon. Toko Serita, New York State Acting Supreme Court Justice, Presiding Judge of the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court, and AABANY member; and Hon. Anil C. Singh, Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department. Hon. Lillian Wan, New York State Acting Supreme Court Justice and AABANY member, moderated the panel.

New York State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore opened the event with a few remarks, thanking the panelists and acknowledging their trailblazing careers as Asian-Americans. Chief Judge DiFiore also emphasized the importance of remembering AAPI history and the United States’ legacy of racial exclusion against Asians. She then turned the program over to Judge Randall T. Eng. Judge Eng, Of Counsel at Meyer Suozzi and former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department, welcomed the attendees and shared his experiences as the first Asian American appointed to the bench in New York.

Judge Wan then introduced the panelists for the event, opening the discussion with a brief presentation on AAPI history from Hong Yen Chang and the Chinese Exclusion Act to the present day. After the presentation, each of the panelists introduced themselves and shared their backgrounds and paths to becoming judges. Judge Wan began the panel discussion, asking the panelists about their experiences as Asian Americans at the times of their confirmations. Many of the panelists recounted how there were very few, if not any, Asian American judges when they were appointed. Judge Chen recalled how her appointment was facilitated by Obama’s attempts to diversify the federal bench, while Judge Serita recounted her experiences as the first Japanese American appointed to her court.

Judge Wan moved on to the reasons behind the underrepresentation of AAPIs in the state and federal judiciary. All of the panelists cited lack of political engagement, the lack of a pipeline, and the general tendency of Asian lawyers to seek employment at corporate law firms. Judge Chen also brought up cultural barriers, touching on how Asians tend not to promote themselves and do not seek help even when needed.

Judge Wan shifted the topic to Asian stereotypes and its effects on day-to-day legal practice. The judges all expressed how Asians are frequently lumped together, being viewed as a monolithic group. Judge Serita pointed out that the term “Asian” itself perpetuates invisibility, as it smothers the diverse experiences that individuals of different Asian cultures experience. Judge Chen also mentioned how women of color tend to face more microaggressions than men of color.

Judge Wan then asked the panelists if they had experienced any incidents of anti-Asian assault during the COVID pandemic. Judge Serita shared that during the height of the pandemic, she would wear a hat and sunglasses on the subway in order to hide her Asian identity. She also mentioned how women make up 70% of bias incident victims due to being stereotyped as meek and docile. Judge Serita also emphasized the importance of continuing the conversations about Asians and race in light of the rise in anti-Asian incidents. Judge Chen also shared a story, where an Asian female jury member had to be excused from jury duty because she feared being assaulted on the subway commute to the courthouse.

Judge Wan then directed the conversation towards the role of diversity in the judiciary. All the judges emphasized the importance of having a judiciary that reflects the diversity of the people it serves. Judge Chen also cited Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion in the Schuette v. Coalition case, pointing out how race does matter in the judiciary due to the long history of minorities being excluded in the United States.

Judge Wan then asked the panelists their thoughts on building a pipeline for Asians to enter the judiciary. All the judges expressed how important it was to reach out to the community to inspire young people to consider a public service career. Judge Chen identified a number of internships and programs for students aspiring to become judges while also noting how increasing Asian political representation in federal and state positions would afford aspiring AAPI lawyers the support needed to get through the confirmation process. Judge Chen also mentioned the role of bar associations like AABANY and the South Asian Bar Association of New York in sponsoring candidates for the bench. Judge Serita finished by encouraging young lawyers to be more proactive and to overcome Asian cultural humility.

Judge Wan moved to the topic of judicial screening panels, asking the judges their thoughts on the role of diversity on the panels. All the judges agreed on the vital role of diversity on screening panels. Judge Serita recounted one instance where an Asian woman being reviewed by the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys was given a low qualification score, due, in part, to the fact that only one out of the 30 committee members was Asian.

To close the panel, Judge Wan asked the judges if they had any advice to give to young attorneys aspiring to the bench. Judge Chen and Judge Serita both encouraged the attendees to enjoy their work, be passionate about it, but also, to not plan their careers rigidly around becoming a judge. All the judges also expressed the importance of flexibility and of keeping options open.

At the end of the event, Judge Eng shared photographs and a newspaper clipping documenting his long and distinguished career in the judiciary. Judge Wan then thanked the panelists for their time and the attendees for coming to the event.

To watch the full event, click here.

NAPABA President A.B. Cruz III Testifies before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property on the Importance of a Diverse Federal Judiciary

For Immediate Release: 
Date: July 12, 2021

Contact: Edgar Chen, Policy Director

Click here for Testimony.

WASHINGTON – This morning, NAPABA President A.B. Cruz III testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property at a hearing entitled, “The Importance of a Diverse Federal Judiciary, Part 2: The Selection and Confirmation Process.” President Cruz’s testimony on behalf of NAPABA highlighted the challenges that Asian Pacific American attorneys often encounter as they attempt to advance in the legal profession. According to the 2017 landmark study “A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law” (“Portrait Project”) published jointly by NAPABA and Yale Law School, the most often cited issues are lack of mentorship and role models, lack of leadership training, and work going unrecognized. President Cruz’s testimony also drew on the Portrait Projects finding that the selection process for clerkships or law firm promotion – often a prerequisite for judicial consideration, involves not only measures of objective criteria but also access to mentorship and subjective criteria which are often amorphous factors that decision makers rely on to determine whom they regard as their proteges. President Cruz was joined on the panel by his Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) colleague and Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) President Elia Diaz Yeager.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting APA communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of all backgrounds in the legal profession..

AABANY Board Director Margaret Ling Moderates ABA CBLA Opening Program on June 29

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.

Coalition of Affinity Bars Stand in Unity for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Continuing Legal Education

For Immediate Release: 
Date: July 7, 2021

Contact: Edgar Chen, Policy Director

WASHINGTON- 
The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) – the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) – together with the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association, and the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA-North America) stand united in their support of efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in continuing legal education (CLE) and in opposition to the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling and amendments to the Florida Bar Rules on diversity requirements for CLE programming. As national organizations dedicated to advancing equality and opportunity for underrepresented and historically marginalized members of the legal profession, diversity, equity, and inclusion are of paramount importance to our communities. Diversity on CLE panels benefits both panelists who are recognized for their expertise, as well as audience members who can be inspired by seeing those with similar backgrounds or experiences serving as role models and educators in the legal profession. Moreover, CLE participants may well benefit from hearing from panelists who bring unique and diverse perspectives that they may not have been exposed to previously.

“The objective of the ABA policy and the Florida CLE Diversity Policy is not to exclude anyone, but to ensure inclusion,” argued CK Hoffler, a Florida Bar member and President of the NBA in the NBA’s submission to the Supreme Court. “No one is displaced nor denied an opportunity to participate because of these new policies. African-African attorneys founded the NBA, due in large part because of exclusion. Today, there remains a need to ensure the inclusion of African American attorneys in the legal field and include African American attorneys in the discussion of legal issues.”

“As bar associations dedicated to the advancement of equality and opportunity for APA attorneys, NAPABA and its Florida affiliates believe it is imperative to feature a diverse range of views, experiences and backgrounds in CLE programs in order to address the critical gaps in mentors, connections and role models that are so important for career advancement,” wrote A.B. Cruz III, President of NAPABA in a joint filing before the Court submitted with Florida-based affiliates. “Panelists benefit from recognition as experts which burnishes their credentials, and audience members can be inspired by witnessing those with similar backgrounds or experiences serving as role models and educators in the profession.”

“Diversity is vital to ensuring equal justice under the law and to public confidence in our legal system,” said Elia Diaz-Yaeger, HNBA National President. “If we want to move in the right direction, we must work to ensure a greater diversity across our profession that is representative of the people and communities we represent. That kind of positive change does not happen on its own; it requires bold action and leadership. We urge the Court to clarify its order to permit inclusive diversity policies for CLE courses.”

“In Florida, with a Native American population of over 125,000 and two federally recognized tribes, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people are grossly underrepresented in the legal profession and strikingly so in the judiciary,” said Colleen Lamarre, President of the National Native American Bar Association. “The ABA policy and the Florida Bar Business Law Section’s CLE Diversity Policy are aimed at ensuring that CLE programing reflects the local population and advances the voices of historically marginalized groups. Representation and visibility through the continuing legal education process is critical to guaranteeing that the voices of indigenous people are heard and that the local and national attorney population, the pipeline of future attorneys, and our clients benefit and learn from interactions with Native American attorneys and their professional and cultural experiences.”

“Ensuring that diverse points of view are recognized and promoted throughout the legal profession is a primary goal of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association,” said Lousene Hoppe, LGBTQ+ Bar Association President. “We support the efforts of the ABA and the Business Law Section of the Florida Bar to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion on CLE panels, and we oppose the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling and amendments to the Florida Bar Rules on diversity requirements for CLE programming.”

“SABA North America is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the entire legal profession in North America,” said Samir Mehta, President of SABA North America. “We are committed to seeing this diversity reflected through lawyers of all backgrounds and identities. In Florida, there is only one Asian Pacific American on the federal bench in the entire state and such jurists represent less than one percent of state court judges there. This level of underrepresentation is unacceptable and we look forward to seeing more judges from all marginalized and historically underrepresented backgrounds added, including Asian American and South Asian American judges. In the arena of continuing legal education, we hope that the Florida Supreme Court will recognize that inclusion of different viewpoints will serve as an inspiration for the entire bar. We also hope this will prove that historically underrepresented or marginalized communities are not only welcome, but have much to contribute to our common goal of advancing justice.”

With the stated goals to eliminate bias, increase diversity, and implement efforts aimed at recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys, the Business Law Section (BLS) of the Florida Bar set forth a policy preference whereby the BLS would only sponsor, co-sponsor, or seek accreditation for any CLE program that had minimum numbers of diverse panelists, although the policy also had built in flexibility allowing for exemptions in the event that, after a diligent search, diverse panelists could not participate. In April, on its motion, the Florida Supreme Court struck down this policy characterizing it as “tainted by…discrimination,” and analogizing it to university admissions cases where the Supreme Court of the United States prohibited quotas based on race, even though the policy does not exclude or foreclose the participation of any panelist on a CLE program based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other characteristic. The Florida Supreme Court then re-wrote the Florida Bar rules to prohibit the approval of any CLE programs that use quotas based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability or sexual orientation of course faculty or participants. The ruling means that licensed Floridian attorneys would be banned from receiving CLE credit for attending an ABA-sponsored CLE program, as the ABA has a similar diversity policy.

For more information please contact:
HNBA Contact: Daniel Herrera
NAPABA Contact: Edgar Chen 
NBA Contact: Wanda Flowers
NNABA Contact: Colleen Lamarre 
LGBTQ+ Bar Contact: D’Arcy Kemnitz 
SABA-NA Contact: Jasmine Singh 

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The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA). The HNBA is an incorporated, nonprofit, nonpartisan, national membership organization that represents the interests of more than 67,000 Hispanic legal professionals and as well as the close to 13 percent of law students enrolled in ABA accredited law schools in the United States and its territories. We are committed to advocacy on issues of importance to the 61 million people of Hispanic heritage living in the U.S. From the days of its founding three decades ago, the HNBA has acted as a force for positive change within the legal profession. It does so by encouraging Hispanic students to choose a career in the law and by prompting their advancement within the profession once they graduate and start practicing. Through a combination of issue advocacy, programmatic activities, networking events and educational conferences, the HNBA has helped generations of lawyers succeed. For more information about HNBA, visit www.hnba.com.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of over 60,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession. For additional information about NAPABA, visit www.napaba.org.

Founded in 1925, the NBA is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of minority attorneys and judges. It represents approximately 66,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students and has over 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world. The organization seeks to advance the science of jurisprudence, preserve the independence of the judiciary and to uphold the honor and integrity of the legal profession. For additional information about the National Bar Association, visit www.nationalbar.org.

Founded in 1973, the NNABA serves as the national association for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. NNABA strives for justice and effective legal representation for all American indigenous peoples; fosters the development of Native American lawyers and judges; and addresses social, cultural and legal issues affecting American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. For additional information about NNABA, visit www.nativeamericanbar.org.

The National LGBTQ+ Bar was founded over thirty years ago by a small group of family law practitioners at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. In 1987, the idea of creating a gay and lesbian bar association was formally introduced at the Lesbian & Gay March on Washington. The first Lavender Law® Conference took place the following year at the Golden Gate University in San Francisco. In 1989, at the American Bar Association’s Mid-Year meeting, bylaws were presented, and a nonprofit board of directors was formalized. At the second board meeting in 1989 in Boston, the LGBT Bar, then known as the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association (NLGLA), had 293 paid members, and initiated a campaign to ask the ABA to include protection based on sexual orientation to its revision of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct for Judges. In 1992, the LGBT Bar became an official affiliate of the American Bar Association and it now works closely with the ABA’s Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities and its Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. For more information about the LGBTQ+ Bar, visit www.lgbtbar.org.

SABA North America was founded in 2002 to strengthen the rapidly growing South Asian legal community with a recognized and trusted forum for professional growth and development, and promotes the civil rights and access to justice for the South Asian community. With 29 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, SABA attorneys work in all areas of the law, including at large law firms, as in-house counsel, government attorneys, and solo practitioners. SABA hosts an Annual Conference, annual Lobby Day, and numerous other successful programs throughout the year. For more information about SABA North America, visit www.sabanorthamerica.com.

In the News: Development Director Margaret T. Ling Discusses “Diversity in Law” with Attorney Kenneth Landau on His Radio Show Law You Should Know (Broadcasted by WHPC 90.3 FM)

On May 26, Margaret T. Ling appeared as a guest on Attorney Kenneth Landau’s Radio Show Law You Should Know to discuss “Diversity in Law.” Margaret, who currently serves on AABANY’s Board as Development Director and has been serving for many years as Real Estate Committee Co-Chair, touched on the importance of racial diversity on the bench and the resources AABANY provides for Asian Americans in law. In response to Landau’s questions, Margaret explained that she values AABANY for its advocacy work, given her own experience as a pioneer in the field of law, as one of only three Asian law students in her class. Margaret stressed that AABANY provides a beneficial space for networking and mentorship, for local and international students alike, as well as a Pro Bono & Community Service Committee and Legal Referral and Information Service that’s well-equipped to aid non-English speakers with its volunteers fluent in diverse Asian languages. Over her career, Margaret has witnessed progress regarding diversity in law, but she notes that the “Bamboo ceiling” continues to prevent Asians in law from achieving partnership or other higher-ranking roles. Now, she fondly mentors thirty students, advocating for diversity in law, in addition to her impressive case load.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

NAPABA and Florida Affiliates File Comments Before Florida Supreme Court to Uphold Diversity and Inclusion in Continuing Legal Education

For Immediate Release: Date: June 29, 2021

Contact: Edgar Chen, Policy Director

WASHINGTON –The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), together with the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay (APABA-TB), the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida (APABA-SF), the Greater Orlando Asian American Bar Association (GOAABA), and the Jacksonville Asian American Bar Association (JAABA) (collectively, “Florida Affiliates”) filed comments today before the Florida Supreme Court in response to the Court’s April 15 ruling prohibiting the Florida Bar from approving and providing credit for any continuing legal education (CLE) courses employing certain diversity requirements for CLE panels. NAPABA, its Florida Affiliates, and all affiliates across the nation serve to promote justice, equity, and opportunity for Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) and to foster professional development, legal scholarship, advocacy, and community involvement benefiting persons of all colors and backgrounds.

Today’s filing documents the critical need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in CLE programming both in Florida and across the country. As APAs remain underrepresented at nearly every level of the legal profession, NAPABA and its Florida Affiliates urge the Florida Supreme Court to recognize that fostering diversity is an increasingly necessary component to the successful functioning of the American legal system. The submission argues that the Florida Bar’s diversity policies are inclusive and would not exclude any person, perspective, or viewpoint from a CLE program based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, as the Florida Supreme Court believed, when it described the policy as “tainted by …discrimination.” Instead, as the filing notes, the stated goal of the policy was to eliminate bias, increase diversity, and implement tactics aimed at recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys.

“The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) values diversity, equity, inclusion, and opportunity for members of the APA legal community and persons from all backgrounds,” said A.B. Cruz III, President of NAPABA. “Meaningful representation, including on CLE panels, is a chance for panelists and participants to recognize that APA lawyers are here to contribute to the advancement of legal education.”

“The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay (APABA of Tampa Bay) is proud to join with our fellow Florida APA bar associations in underscoring the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in continuing legal education,” said Hannah Choi, President-Elect of APABA of Tampa Bay.  “In Florida there are over 760,000 Asian Pacific American residents, yet there is only a small percentage of APA lawyers in the state.  In a profession where APAs are underrepresented, diversity, equity, and inclusion matter and benefit all current and future members of the bar.”

“For the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida (APABA-SF), diversity, equity, and inclusion are not merely buzzwords, but are significant and meaningful to the APA community,” said Guy Kamealoha Noa, President of APABA-SF.  “As our comments show, APA jurists account for less than ½ percent of all Florida judges.  Having diversity on CLE panels presents an opportunity for participants to learn from their peers of different backgrounds and perspectives, and can inspire others to know they too can be leaders in the Florida Bar. I have witnessed APA attendees comment during a panel presentation that they did not know there were any APA judges in South Florida and how wonderful and inspirational it was for them, as APAs, to see an APA judge. Diversity on CLE panels provides real, meaningful impact on the community.” 

“The Greater Orlando Asian American Bar Association (GOAABA) notes that with anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents on the rise across the country, and particularly in Florida, APA voices and faces in the legal community need to be heard and seen,” said Onchantho Am, President of GOABBA. “Florida ranks eighth in the nation for anti-Asian hate incidents.  In these critical times, having a diversity of voices on CLE panels helps the legal community come together and be more united.”   

“The Jacksonville Asian American Bar Association (JAABA) strives to improve representation of APAs in the Floridian legal community,” said Vivile Dietrich, President of JAABA. “Having APA representation in CLEs is just one area where the Florida Bar can do better in terms of raising the visibility of the APAs in the law.  The perspectives of APA legal colleagues regarding their career pathways, practice area expertise, and legal issues affecting the various APA communities, promote authenticity, credibility, and knowledge – not only regarding mentorship opportunities for APA attorneys and law students – but also of APA experiences, cultural views, and concerns for those who represent or otherwise wish to engage and foster deeper relationships with APA community members.” 

“The Filipino-American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA NY) is committed to enhancing the diversity in the profession,” said Ariel Risinger, President of FALA NY. “CLEs are an opportunity to put forth a wide range of perspectives and thought leadership. We strongly support our Florida colleagues in ensuring the profession’s commitment to showcasing the diversity of thought for all generations of lawyers.”

The Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (AABA Chicago) strongly believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion in CLEs benefit the entire legal profession,” said Kristy Gonowon, President of AABA Chicago. “We stand with our sister affiliates in Florida who are fighting to ensure that all perspectives are seen and heard on CLEs.”

Today’s submission is also supported by the following NAPABA affiliate organizations from around the country: the Arizona Asian American Bar Association, the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago, the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts, the Asian American Bar Association of New York, the Asian American Bar Association of Ohio, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, the Chinese American Bar Association of Greater Chicago, the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Dallas Asian American Bar Association, the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago, the Filipino-American Lawyers Association of New York, the Filipino-American Lawyers of Orange County, the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association-Hawaii, the National Filipino American Lawyers Association, the Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Sacramento Filipino American Lawyers Association, the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association, the Thai American Bar Association, and the Vietnamese American Lawyers of Illinois.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the largest Asian Pacific American membership organization representing the interests of approximately 60,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

In the News: Judiciary Committee Co-Chair William Wang Quoted in Democrat and Chronicle Article about the New York State Judiciary’s Lack of Diversity

On June 17, 2021, Judiciary Committee Co-Chair William Wang (and former AABANY President, 2015) was quoted in a Democrat and Chronicle article titled “New York’s judges aren’t as diverse as the state is. Here’s why that matters.” A report commissioned by Chief Judge Di Fiore in June 2020, which was released in October 2020, found that communities of color were underrepresented in New York State’s judiciary. Out of the 78% of state-paid judges who responded, only 14% identified as Black, 9% said they were Hispanic or Latino of any race, and 3% said they were Asian American. Sixty-nine percent of judges indicated they were white. In contrast, New York State’s population is 18% Black, 20% Hispanic or Latino, and 9% Asian. Citing the recent rise in hate crimes committed against the Asian American community, Wang argues that increased representation of Asian Americans in the judiciary will help members of the community feel more confident that they can attain justice when they are the victims of such violence. Wang states, “It’s very important for communities of color to be able to go into the court system, a system where they are trying to get and obtain justice and to see someone that potentially can look like them.”

To read the full article, click here (subscription required).

AABANY Member Profile: Vincent T. Chang Becomes First AAPI President of NYCLA

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.

In The News: President Terry Shen and Past President Linda Lin’s Op-Ed on the Lack of Asian-American Representation in New York’s Courts Published in City & State

On May 20, 2021, City & State published an Op-Ed written by President Terry Shen and Past President Linda Lin of the Asian American Bar Association of New York.

In the Op-Ed, President Shen and Past President Lin describe how a wave of Anti-Asian violence swept across New York City in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and how the city government’s lackluster response to these incidents has not been enough to protect the AAPI community. According to the article, stronger Asian-American representation in New York’s courts can help to solve these issues. The article also highlights Kathy Hirata Chin, the only Asian-American candidate for the New York Court of Appeals, arguing that her appointment would be a landmark step towards greater racial diversity, justice, and equity. As stated by President Shen and Past President Lin: “Our government must be diverse to fulfill Lincoln’s vision of a nation ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ The need in our city and state is urgent and necessary.”

To read the full article, click here.