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.

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.

NAPABA’s Virtual Lobby Day

In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), please join NAPABA on May 24-27 for NAPABA’s first ever virtual Lobby Day.

Lobby Day is an opportunity for NAPABA members from across the country to educate members of Congress and Congressional staffers on issues of importance to the AAPI community.

This year’s Lobby Day has never been as important as it is now. NAPABA is operating at the intersection of anti-Asian hate crimes and hate-based incidents, all set against the backdrop of the COVID-pandemic, a pandemic for which our communities have been falsely scapegoated. This year, NAPABA’s Lobby Day is not only about supporting important legislation, but ensuring that your voices and advocacy for justice, equity, and opportunity for all AAPIs are heard from your home districts to the halls of Congress!

REGISTER NOW

Schedule Coming Soon

Questions? Contact Edgar Chen , Policy Director

Fireside Chat – Thursday, March 11 at 6:30 PM

From the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo:

We are proud to present the next Fireside Chat as part of a series of discussions produced in partnership with the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Taskforce.

We would appreciate your help in spreading the word – please invite your networks to attend the event through email, or by posting the event information on social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Participants can view the program at ny.gov/VETF.

We encourage you to submit questions for the speakers in advance by emailing COVID19VaccineEquity@health.ny.gov, and we will also be taking questions from attendees. We will do our best to pose as many questions to our panelists as possible. You may also choose to register for this event (not required), as a means of adding the event to your calendar and for reminders, at the link here: https://covid-19-vaccine-tribal-nations-building-trust.eventbrite.com

Thank you all and let’s #VaccinateNY!

Please refer any questions to Emily Stetson, Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs, by email at Emily.Stetson@exec.ny.gov or by phone at (518) 956-2617.

爐邊談話-普通話節目- 3月4日星期四晚间6:30 / Fireside Chat – Mandarin Program – March 4 at 6:30 PM

大家好:

我们很荣幸推出下一期的炉边谈话,作为与纽约州 COVID-19 疫苗公平工作组 (New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Taskforce) 合作开展的一系列讨论活动的一部分。这将是一次向全纽约州讲普通话的社区提供教育的难得机会,意义非凡,所以我们希望这次活动的参与者越多越好。

我们鼓励您提前向讲者提交问题,请将您的问题通过电子邮件发 至 COVID19VaccineEquity@health.ny.gov,我们也将接受出席者的提问。我们将竭力向小组成员提出尽可能多的问题。您还可以选择注册该活动(非强制),以将该活动添加到您的日程表并适时收到提醒,请点击以下链接完成这项操作:https://covid-19-vaccine-mobilizing-chinese-communities.eventbrite.com.

English Translation

We are proud to present the next Fireside Chat as part of a series of discussions produced in partnership with the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Taskforce. This will be a meaningful opportunity to provide education to Mandarin-speaking communities across New York State, and we want to encourage as much attendance as possible.

We encourage you to submit questions for the speakers in advance by emailing COVID19VaccineEquity@health.ny.govhttps://covid-19-vaccine-mobilizing-chinese-communities.eventbrite.com.

AABANY Celebrates 2021 Virtual Gala

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, AABANY hosted its 2021 Virtual Gala: Uniting for Justice and Equity. 

The event kicked off at 6 pm with a Pre-Gala Virtual Cocktail Reception on Remo attended by sponsors and special guests, including prominent General Counsels and judges. At 6:30 pm, all Virtual Gala attendees were invited to enjoy a piano concert featuring AABANY Member Renee Yao.

The Virtual Gala started at 7 pm and Kate Siahaan-Riggs, NYC-based actor, stand up comic, and writer, served as emcee. Throughout the gala, AABANY held a text-to-donate fundraiser to support Portrait Project 2.0, the second phase of the Portrait Project study which is researching why Asian Americans are underrepresented in top leadership positions across all sectors of the legal profession and how it can be addressed.

This year AABANY was proud to honor:

Frank H. Wu, President of Queens College, the City University of New York, with the AABANY Impact Award

Sneha Desai, Deputy General Counsel Litigation of BASF Corporation, with the AABANY Women’s Leadership Award

Kirkland & Ellis LLP with the AABANY Law Firm Diversity Award

Ed Lee, AABANY Board Director and Partner at Kirkland & Ellis, accepted the Law Firm Diversity Award on behalf of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Honoree Sneha Desai delivered an acceptance speech, stressing the importance of individuals in leadership and influential positions to make positive change in diversity and inclusion. The Honorable Denny Chin, U.S. Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, hosted a fireside chat with honoree Frank H,. Wu to discuss his career and the work he has accomplished.

In addition, we were also pleased to present the 2021 class of Don H. Liu Scholars: Narissa Ganpat, Minji Kim, and Minh Eric Le.

The Gala concluded with a tribute to Asian American photojournalist and historian Corky Lee who passed away in January due to COVID-19. Corky had taken photos of our past Annual Dinners from its earliest days until 2020.

We thank all of the AABANY Virtual Gala Planning Committee members and volunteers for their hard work in making this year’s celebration a huge success. 

We extend sincere thanks to all of our sponsors. Their generous sponsorships make it possible for us to pursue our mission to advance the interests of the Asian Pacific American (APA) legal community and the communities we serve and support our many activities and signature events throughout the year. 

Lastly, we thank everyone that attended the 2021 Virtual Gala and celebrated with us. Our Virtual Gala was streamed on Vimeo which reports that the gala drew 1,400 views. To watch the gala on You Tube, click here or on the image at the top of this blog. To view the Virtual Gala program book, click here.