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.

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).

In the News: AABANY, SABANY, KALAGNY, & FALA-New York’s Joint Statement on AAPI Under-representation in the Judiciary Featured in The New York Law Journal

On Tuesday, June 15, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY), and the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-New York) released a joint statement calling on the New York State Unified Court System (UCS) to fill judicial vacancies with Asian American Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) judges, including that of Judge Anthony Cannataro’s former role as the citywide administrative judge for the civil court of New York City. On Wednesday, June 16, The New York Law Journal published a front-page article recounting the social and demographic context driving the release of this joint statement, reiterating how “[u]nlike other communities of color, Asian representation has lagged due to a failure by political and judicial leaders to support and promote AAPI judges.” The article also noted how the AAPI bar associations acknowledged the diversity of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent judicial appointments but remained staunch in their commitment to remedying the dearth of AAPI representation on the bench.

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

AABANY Joins SABANY, KALAGNY, and FALA-New York in Calling for Increased Representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Leadership Positions in the New York Judiciary

In February of this year, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) released its report A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions, co-authored with Paul, Weiss, detailing the surge of anti-Asian hate and violence as a result of the pandemic. The report advanced seven carefully-considered proposals for combating anti-Asian racism and discrimination, including, a call for “Greater Representation of Asians in Law Enforcement, Public Office, and the Courts.” Consistent with this proposal, AABANY joined in a statement with the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY), and the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-New York), calling on the New York State Unified Court System (UCS) to appoint Asian American Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) judges to fill the positions of Administrative Judge in the Civil Court of the City of New York, Administrative Judge of Supreme Court, Criminal Term in Bronx County, Administrative Judge of Supreme Court, Criminal Matters in Queens County, and Appellate Term, First Department.

As the accompanying press release for the joint statement issued on June 15 notes, “the lack of Asian representation on the bench is not a recent phenomenon.” As AABANY’s report explains, “Racism and bias fester where positions of power are held primarily by the white majority. Institutions that are meant to both represent and serve justice to the community will be more effective if they more closely reflect the composition of the community.” Efforts to increase diversity in the judiciary comprise first steps to ensuring the legal system can protect all Americans, regardless of racial identity.

Secretary Jeh Johnson elucidated in his October 1, 2020 Report from the Special Advisor on Equal Justice in the New York State Courts that “the overwhelming majority of the civil or criminal litigants in the Housing, Family, Civil and Criminal courts in New York City are people of color,” but “[b]oth the Minorities and Williams Commissions identified the lack of diversity among judges and non-judicial employees within the court system as a major issue affecting the administration of justice in the state.” Though these courts serve many litigants from communities of color, the bench does not reflect that diversity, with the overwhelming number of judges being male and white. Secretary Johnson concludes, “The sad picture that emerges is, in effect, a second-class system of justice for people of color in New York State.”

AABANY, through its joint statement with SABANY, KALAGNY, and FALA-New York, reaffirms its commitment to the fair administration of justice for all, calling for change to the longstanding under-representation of AAPI judges in New York State. Read more here.

NAPABA Congratulates Regina M. Rodriguez and Zahid N. Quraishi on their Historic Confirmations by the U.S. Senate as United States District Court Judges

WASHINGTON – The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) congratulates Regina M. Rodriguez and Zahid N. Quraishi on their historic confirmations by the U.S. Senate as United States District Court Judges.

Rodriguez will become the first Asian Pacific American (APA) judge to sit on the District Court for the District of Colorado, and the first to serve as an Article III judge within the 10th Circuit.  Quraishi, already a federal magistrate judge, will become the first APA to serve as a district court judge in New Jersey and the first Muslim American Article III judge in the country.

“Regina Rodriguez and Zahid Quraishi represent the promise of justice, equity, and opportunity that is so critical for the success of our federal judiciary,” said A.B. Cruz III, President of NAPABA. “NAPABA applauds the Senate for the strong bipartisan confirmation of these two highly qualified and experienced nominees.” 

Regina M. Rodriguez has a distinguished reputation as one of Colorado’s most accomplished attorneys with deep experience in both the public and private sectors and a demonstrated commitment to serving the public interest. Rodriguez served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, rising to become Deputy Chief and later Chief of the Civil Division, where she oversaw all civil litigation for the District.  She was the youngest person and the first of Japanese and Mexican descent to hold that role. She received her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law and her B.S. with honors from the University of Iowa. Rodriguez is endorsed by NAPABA’s affiliate, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado. 

Judge Quraishi has a distinguished legal career with extensive experience as a prosecutor, in the private sector, and serving his country in uniform. In 2019, Judge Quraishi was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey. His previous government service includes over five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and as a decorated military prosecutor with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Judge Quraishi is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He received a J.D. from Rutgers Law School in Newark. Quraishi is endorsed by NAPABA’s affiliate, the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey. 

NAPABA thanks President Biden for nominating Rodriguez, Quraishi, and other highly qualified judicial candidates to the federal bench.


The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) in 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.

AAPI Judges from the Eastern District of New York Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month

On May 25, the Asian American Judges of the Eastern District of New York celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a presentation titled “Photographic Justice: The Retelling of Asian American History in the United States.” Through the photography of Corky Lee, the presentation chronicled Asian Americans’ involvement in U.S. history, which has mostly been omitted from American history books.

The presentation began with a retelling of the Golden Spike ceremony in 1869 that celebrated the completion of the transcontinental railroad. While the majority of the railroad construction workforce was comprised of Chinese immigrants, the photograph taken to commemorate the railroad completion did not include any of the Chinese workers. At the 100-year anniversary of the ceremony in 1969, speakers still ignored the contribution of the Chinese workers. Corky Lee, a renowned photographer, believed in photographic justice and in 2014, he gathered the descendants of the Chinese workers to reenact the Golden Spike ceremony photograph. He said, “Some people would say we are reclaiming Chinese American history. In actuality, we’re reclaiming American history and the Chinese contribution is part and parcel of that.”

The presentation continued by recognizing the contributions of Asian Americans to the American war effort during World War 2, many of whom fought on battlefields overseas. These individuals include the decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Philippine Scouts, and WASP aviators Maggie Gee and Hazel Ying Lee. The third part of the presentation focused on the numerous laws passed in U.S. history that prohibited Asians from immigrating to America such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement. For years, immigration and access to citizenship was based on race. That situation remained unchanged until 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act finally abolished national origin, race, and ancestry as basis for immigration to the U.S. This resulted in increased immigration from China, India, Japan, and the Philippines.

The final segments of the presentation focused on the Asian American Movement and how Asian Americans have come together to address racism and inequality. Addressing the anti-Asian hate and violence occurring today, the presentation concluded that “the current climate of violence against Asian Americans must not stand in the way of Asian Americans being seen, being heard, and being respected in America.”

Thank you to Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara, District Judge Pam Chen, Magistrate Judge James Cho, District Judge Diane Gujarati, Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, and District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto for the important presentation on Asian American history and for celebrating AAPI Heritage Month. To view the full presentation, click here.

AABANY Co-Sponsors Virtual Fireside Chat with Prominent Asian American Judges on January 26, 2021

On January 26, 2021, AABANY co-sponsored a virtual fireside chat hosted by the New York City Bar entitled, “Our Story: Asian American Judges Share Their Path to the Bench, and Thoughts on Diversity and of the Future.” Prominent speakers included:

  • Hon. Shahabudeen Ally, Supervising Judge, New York County Civil Court;
  • Hon. Jeffrey K. Oing, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department and AABANY member;
  • Hon. Ushir Pandit-Durant, New York State Supreme Court, Queens County; and
  • Hon. Lillian Wan, New York State Supreme Court, Kings County and AABANY member.

Serving as moderator, Judge Ally led the discussion on each jurist’s path to the bench, challenges faced in their paths regarding issues of diversity and inclusion, and their thoughts on the inclusion of more Asian Americans in the future of the court system. 

For Justices Oing, Pandit-Durant, and Wan, they did not anticipate becoming jurists when they were in law school. Justice Pandit-Durant had previously served at the Queens Assistant District Attorneys Office for over 20 years, and Justice Wan had been a litigator at the Administration for Children’s Services for 9 years and later as a court attorney referee at Surrogates Court. They became interested in joining the bench after their experiences of appearing before judges everyday and learning more about the judicial appointment process. Speaking about the path to the bench, the speakers emphasized the importance of getting outside their own comfort zone and attending events to get their names out there. You want people to recognize you as someone who would be able to do the job, said Justice Pandit-Durant. “They’re not going to know you until they want to know you.”

Speaking on diversity in the court system, the speakers agreed that compared to the past, we are moving in the right direction. There are now many more women and diverse women on the bench. In the state of New York, there are currently 39 judges of Asian American descent. Justice Wan said, “There is more respect and acceptance of the outcome if we have a bench that looks like the community they serve. Diversity matters.”

In the final segment of the fireside chat, Judge Ally asked the speakers: “What can we do as a population to engage the next generation?” Justice Wan spoke about the importance of mentorships. Many people do not realize that practically anyone with the right qualifications can become a judge, and it is necessary for mentors to help demystify the process. Speakers also discussed how students can be inspired by looking at the diversity of the bench and the progress that has already been made. The jurists praised the 80+ audience members for joining their chat and asking great questions, and concluded with the hope that the number of judges of Asian American descent in New York will continue to increase.

AABANY’s Judiciary Committee has a mission to do just that: increase the number of judges of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent in New York. To learn more about the Judiciary Committee, read this blog post about the March 19 membership mixer featuring that Committee or visit this page on the AABANY website.

Judges Needed for Thomas Tang Moot Court Competition

If you are an attorney attending the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Convention in Chicago this year, we request that you volunteer to serve as a judge in the preliminary and/or quarterfinal rounds of the 2018 Thomas Tang Moot Court Competition (Competition).  The Competition is an appellate advocacy competition sponsored annually by the NAPABA Law Foundation, an IRC § 501( c )(3) non-profit, charitable and educational affiliate of NAPABA.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Competition!  The Competition honors the late Judge Thomas Tang, a champion of individual rights, an advocate for the advancement of minority attorneys, and an ardent supporter of NAPABA.  Judge Tang served on the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1977 until his passing in 1995. To learn more about the competition, click here.

This year’s problem addresses the following issues:

  1. Whether a state university may impose disciplinary sanctions on a student for non-curricular expressive conduct otherwise protected by the First Amendment in order to protect the expressive rights of other.
  2. Whether a state university may expel a law student based on university officials’ determination that her off-campus expressive activity, otherwise protected by the First Amendment, violates the professionalism standards governing attorneys.

The information for the preliminary and quarterfinal rounds is as follows:
Date:  Friday, November 9, 2018
Time:  Preliminary Round One (9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.), Preliminary Round Two (11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.), and Quarterfinal Round (2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
Place:  Sheraton Grand Chicago (301 E. North Water St., Chicago, IL 60611)

Please register online at https://www.wejoinin.com/sheets/dicpm to judge one or both of the preliminary rounds and/or the quarterfinal round.  Although the sign-up sheet is getting full, please consider signing up to be an alternate in the event someone needs to make a last minute cancellation. Once you register, you will be emailed the problem, the bench brief, the rules and the oral argument scoring sheets.  Please report to the Tennessee meeting room located on the second level at least 20 minutes before your scheduled round to obtain your room assignment.  We ask that alternates also report to the Tennessee meeting room 20 minutes before your scheduled room to determine if your services are needed for the Competition.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Linda Tran (linda.tran.m37t@statefarm.com) or Leah Gould (gould.leah@gmail.com).