AABANY’s Judiciary Committee Presents “The Road to the Bench: Administrative Law Judge” on June 24

On June 24, AABANY’s Judiciary Committee hosted a virtual discussion on how to become an administrative law judge (ALJ), as part of the Committee’s Road to the Bench series. Panelists included Hon. Kenneth Chu, Administrative Law Judge at the National Labor Relations Board; Hon. Grace E. Lee, Administrative Law Judge at the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance; Hon. Christopher P. Lee, Retired Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration; and Rena Malik, Principal Law Clerk at the New York State Supreme Court and Co-Chair of AABANY’s Judiciary Committee. The panel was moderated by Mark Son, Associate Court Attorney at the Bronx County Criminal Court.

The roundtable discussion began with a question from Mark asking the panelists to describe their path towards becoming an ALJ. Judge Grace Lee shared how her passion for justice and public service inspired her to take on various roles in government and public policy, which ultimately led her to taking the Civil Service Exam and landing her current position as an ALJ at the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Judge Chu spoke about his longtime interest in employment and labor law and how he applied for the ALJ position at the National Labor Relations Board while serving as an administrative judge at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Judge Chris Lee detailed the seven year process he underwent when applying for the ALJ position because he missed the deadline to apply in 1987 and had to wait until 1994 for a new position opening.

The remainder of the roundtable discussion focused on questions about the ALJ application process. Previously, all applicants applied through the Office of Personnel Management, but after changes enacted under the Trump Administration, applicants now apply through individual agencies’ vacancy announcements. Judge Grace Lee explained the process of completing the Civil Service/Legal Specialities Exam, a questionnaire where applicants can explain their skills and experiences for agencies to review. Asked about the skills and experiences ALJ applicants should have, the panelists agreed that it is important to be able to process a lot of information quickly, while also being detail-oriented and conscientious about due process. It is also helpful for applicants to have litigation experience.

The discussion concluded with Rena sharing how the AABANY Judiciary Committee can assist interested candidates. A main goal of the Judiciary Committee is to advance Asian American and Pacific Islander attorneys onto judgeship positions in all levels of the benches, and the Committee can assist applicants by providing a recommendation letter or connecting applicants with current employees at agencies. To learn more about AABANY’s Judiciary Committee, click here.

AABANY Hosts its Annual Judges’ Reception on May 25 in Celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s Judiciary Committee hosted its annual Judges’ Reception on Zoom. The reception honored newly inducted, elevated and retiring judges in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. 

Will Wang, Co-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, served as Master of Ceremonies and welcomed the judges and the attendees to the virtual reception. Last year’s event did not happen, due to COVID-19, and we were pleased to be able to host judges and attendees virtually via Zoom this year.

The following elevated judges were honored:

Hon. Shahabuddeen Ally, Supervising Judge, New York City Civil Court, New York County

Hon. Katheryn S. Paek, New York City Criminal Court, New York County

The following newly elected judges were honored:

Hon. Wyatt Gibbons, New York Supreme Court, Queens County

Hon. Philip T. Hom, New York Supreme Court, Queens County

Hon. Leigh K. Cheng, New York City Civil Court, Queens County

Hon. Hyun Chin Kim, County Court, Orange County

Hon. E. Grace Park, New York City Civil Court, New York County

Hon. Meredith Vacca, County Court, Monroe County 

Hon. John Z. Wang, New York City Civil Court, New York County

The following newly appointed judges were honored:

Hon. James R. Cho, United States Magistrate Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

Hon. Diane Gujarati, United States District Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

The reception also recognized and honored two judges who had retired from the bench:

Hon. Peter Tom, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department

Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Term, First Department

The honorees recognized at the event are trailblazers for Asian Americans in the judiciary. Of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, Asians remain the least represented group in positions within the judiciary. Although Asians make up around 6% of the United States population, in 2020, they comprised less than 3% of federal judges. In the state of New York, although Asians make up 9% of the population, Asians represent a mere 2% of state judges. That number raises even more concern when we consider that Asians account for some 14% of the population in New York City, and Manhattan’s Chinatown is literally right around the corner from State and Federal courthouses. In light of current events and the rise in anti-Asian violence, AAPI representation on the bench is more important than ever. AABANY thanks the honorees for their pioneering example.

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, the Judiciary Committee also held a short trivia game where participants would answer questions about the history of Asian American Pacific Islanders in the United States. Questions included: What was the purpose of the Chinese Exclusion Act? Which President signed the joint resolution commemorating APA Heritage Month? What was the reason for boycotting Miss Saigon on Broadway? The winners, who each answered nine out of the ten questions correctly, were Joseb Gim, AABANY Prosecutors’ Committee Co-Chair; L. Austin D’Souza, AABANY Judiciary Committee member and SABANY President-Elect; and the Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan, an AABANY Founding Board Member and the AABANY Trailblazer Award honoree from the 2020 Fall Conference. The winners received buttons which had been created to raise funds for AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic, inscribed with the words “One Humanity against the Virus.”

Congratulations to all the judges who were recognized and honored at this year’s Judges’ Reception, and thanks to everyone who joined us for this event. 

To learn more about AABANY’s Judiciary Committee and its work, 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).

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.

AABANY Hosts Weekly Membership Mixer Featuring the Judiciary Committee on March 19

On March 19, 2021, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly virtual Membership Mixer, with 25 participants in attendance. This week, we co-hosted the mixer with the Judiciary Committee. The icebreaker question was: “Who is your favorite judge, whether it be from television, judges you have appeared in front of, or judges you studied in law school?” Participants answered their favorite judges were Denny Chin, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Thurgood Marshall, Judge Judy, Tara Collins, Norma Ruiz,  LaShann DeArcy Hall, Pamela Chen, Sandra Day O’Connor, Lewis Pollack, Learned Hand, and Anthony Cannataro. 

The co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee told members their role at AABANY, and their wish to help more Asian lawyers become judges.  Members also heard from Honorable Lillian Wan and Honorable John Wang about their journey to judgeships, and how AABANY helped. We also heard from judicial candidate Christopher Chin, who is running in the primary this June. 

The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but many often stay on after 7:30pm for smaller breakout groups.

Membership Committee will continue to host weekly virtual mixers until it is safe to gather together again in person.

Please join us this week on March 26, 2021 for a very special mixer with Founders of AABANY. Please come listen to Hon. Doris Ling Cohan, Rocky Chin, Hon. Marilyn Go and Sylvia Chin discuss how AABANY started! Register by Thursday, March 25, at https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1468900.

AABANY Co-Hosts Webinar on Becoming a Magistrate Judge

On May 20, 2020, the Judiciary Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and the Public Interest Committee of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY) co-hosted a panel on how to become a Magistrate Judge. Recently, the Eastern District of New York announced vacancies for four US Magistrate Judge positions, the first time so many opportunities have been simultaneously available since the positions were created. The webinar provided important information and advice for individuals who might be considering a career as a Magistrate Judge.

The event featured panelists Hon. Sanket Bulsara, Hon. Peggy Kuo, and Linda Lin. Judge Bulsara was appointed as a Magistrate Judge of EDNY on August 28, 2017, and previously served as Acting General Counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Judge Kuo was appointed on October 9, 2015, and prior to her appointment, she served as the Acting Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Division Criminal Section at the U.S. Department of Justice; litigation counsel at Wilmer Hale, LLP; Chief Hearing Officer at the New York Stock Exchange; and Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel of the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. Linda Lin is the General Counsel of Business Unit Support at QBE North America and a member of the EDNY Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel. Austin D’Souza, Principal Law Clerk to Hon. Faviola A. Soto at the New York Court of Claims and Vice President of Public Relations at SABANY, served as the moderator.

Judge Bulsara and Judge Kuo discussed their responsibilities as Magistrate Judges. They emphasized that though their docket is heavily civil, varying between 400-500 cases per judge, they also play an important role on the criminal side. Magistrate Judges are on criminal duty approximately once every ten weeks, during which they preside over arraignments, initial appearances, and bail hearings. They also conduct jury selection in felony cases. Judge Bulsara noted that his favorite part of being a Magistrate Judge is presiding over naturalization ceremonies and interacting with wonderful colleagues.

Linda Lin described the application process and how potential candidates are evaluated. Members of the Selection Panel independently review the applications and decide on which candidates to interview. Prior to the interview, the panel conducts due diligence and may reach out to references beyond those mentioned in the candidate’s application. The Selection Panel also requests writing samples, preferably those that demonstrate analysis and are centered around advocacy and litigation. Finally, five names are presented to the Board of Judges, who decide whom to appoint as a Magistrate Judge. While reviewing applications, members of the Selection Panel look for the following qualities: scholarship, from academic records to achievements; active practice of the law, including breadth and depth of experience, professional competence, and pro bono and public service activities; knowledge of the court system and recent experience in front of the federal bench; and personal attributes, or judicial temperament.

Judge Kuo advised individuals applying to become a Magistrate Judge to prepare for their interviews by going back and reading their application and writing samples, looking up the biographies of members of the Selection Panel, and reviewing the Rules of Civil Procedure. Judge Bulsara urged candidates to take advantage of the mock interviews offered by AABANY and sit in on proceedings in court.

We thank our panelists for speaking on the program and sharing insightful advice about the process of becoming a United States Magistrate Judge. Thanks also to Austin D’Souza for serving as an excellent moderator. For more information on AABANY’s Judiciary Committee, please see https://www.aabany.org/page/115.

AABANY Hosts its Third Annual Judges’ Reception in Celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

On Thursday, May 30, 2019, AABANY’s Judiciary Committee hosted its third annual Judges’ Reception at the Surrogate’s Courthouse, 31 Chambers Street. The reception honored newly inducted, elevated and retiring judges in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

The honorees recognized at the event were individuals who represent the significant strides that Asian Pacific Americans have achieved, as well as the ongoing fight for diversity within our leading institutions.

New York State Senator John C. Liu was slated to be the keynote speaker for the reception, but due to pressing matters in Albany he was not able to attend. The Honorable Phillip Hom, Civil Court of the City of New York, delivered remarks on his behalf. Judge Hom is a friend of Senator John C. Liu from their days at Bronx High School of Science and Binghamton University. Judge Hom also served as the Chief of Staff of then-Councilman John C. Liu from 2002-2005.

At the reception, the following judges were honored:

Hon. Shahabuddeen Ally
Hon. Karen Cortes
Hon. Shorab Ibrahim
Hon. Donald Leo
Hon. Ushir Pandit-Durant
Hon. John Zhuo Wang
Hon. Wendy Changyong Li
Hon. Archana Rao
Hon. Lillian Wan
Hon. Karen Bacdayan
Hon. Michael H. Park

All the honorees are Asian Pacific Americans Judges who were recently inducted to the bench or elevated in New York. To learn more about them and to read our press release for the event, click here. To learn more about the Judiciary Committee and to reach its co-chairs, go here: http://www.aabany.org/?page=115.

Following the awards ceremony, all attendees enjoyed catching up with each other or making new connections, over delicious food and dessert catered by Nom Wah and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

We thank everyone that braved the rain to make this year’s reception another successful one.

Thanks to AABANY Legal Intern Katy Kim for providing the photos for this blog post.