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.

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

AAJANY Statement on Anti-Asian Violence

We are heartened by the expressions of solidarity against anti-Asian bigotry and violence from our brothers and sisters across the many bar and judicial associations. We too express our condolences to the families of all victims in Atlanta and to all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have experienced violence of any kind based on their ethnicity.  To quote the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”   

– Asian American Judges Association of New York State 

AABANY Report Cited on Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC FM)

The March 1st broadcast of the Brian Lehrer Show featured Arun Venugopal, a senior reporter for WNYC’s Race & Justice Unit. Together, Brian and Arun discussed the alarming rise in anti-Asian violence since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian opened the show by citing statistics from AABANY and Paul, Weiss’ co-authored report: A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions. According to the report, there have been more than 2,500 anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide between March and September of 2020. Drawing on another finding of the AABANY report, Arun noted that targeted attacks are particularly commonplace in New York, where Asians are more at risk of physical assault, verbal harassment, and being coughed and spat on. Arun proceeded to draw awareness to a number of local hate incidents, the most recent among them being the stabbing of an Asian American man in Chinatown last Thursday. Citing the opinion of Chris Kwok, AABANY board director and co-executive editor of AABANY’s report, Arun noted that such attacks may be motivated by the stereotype that Asians are “soft targets” who will not fight back. Expanding on this notion, Arun stated that Asians must be seen as part of broader communities that will fight back.

In the remainder of the show, listeners from the Asian American community called in to voice their own experiences as victims of the “soft target” stereotype and express a similar desire for intersectional coalitions. While debates continue over how such coalitions may best be built, Arun pointed out that we all have a role to play in the here and now. By reporting bias incidents to groups like Stop AAPI Hate and the Asian American Federation, whose work is also discussed in the AABANY report, we can ensure that the issue of anti-Asian violence remains at the top of the nation’s political agenda. 

To listen to this episode of the Brian Lehrer Show in its entirety, click here.

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.

Fall Conference 2020: Enforcement in a Fragmented World

On September 26, 2020, as part of the second day of the 2020 Fall Conference, AABANY hosted Enforcement in a Fragmented World, a panel on unique challenges currently facing attorneys representing clients in white collar and enforcement matters. On the panel were:

  • Edward Y. Kim, Co-Founder of Krieger Kim & Lewin LLP (Moderator)
  • Charu Chandrasekhar, Assistant Regional Director of the Division of Enforcement of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Una Dean, Partner at Fried Frank LLP
  • Joon H. Kim, Partner at Cleary Gottlieb (and former Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York)
  • Leo R. Tsao, Chief of the Bank Integrity Unit at the U.S. Department of Justice

The discussion started with the panelists talking about how their work has been affected by the pandemic. They discussed how a lot of the work they do — interviewing witnesses, talking and negotiating with the authorities, and gathering information — relied on in-person work. However, they agreed that justice delayed is justice denied, especially for the people and companies they are investigating. With statutes of limitations and fading memories, enforcement attorneys have been interviewing people over video and phone calls. Despite many successful interviews, they still have the obstacle of building relationships and rapport with potential cooperators over the phone. All in all, they agreed that enforcement has been very active recently and will continue to be for years to come.

Then, each of the attorneys discussed their personal experiences in enforcement. Although the attorneys each had different career paths, they agreed that they all loved their jobs because they are able to focus on doing justice, not winning cases. They discussed how their job is also an incredible honor and responsibility to be able to serve their community and country.

Next, the speakers talked about challenges they have encountered as Asian Pacific American (APA) practitioners. While dealing with drastic underrepresentation in their fields, as well as the ever persistent Model Minority Myth and the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype, the attorneys often faced overt and subtle racism in their work. However, they see a strong trend in many organizations towards actively diversifying the workplace to create a base of attorneys who actually reflect the communities they serve. Additionally, Chandrasekhar and Dean discussed the added challenges of being female APA practitioners. They discussed how government work can actually be a great equalizer. Although there are still many difficulties that come with many sacrifices and compromises, women in government service are taught to stand up and speak out in court about their cases, which builds confidence.

The panel concluded with some of the attorneys discussing the importance of separating the system from the service. They agreed that there are many serious injustices and inequities in the justice system, and the justice system must be reformed and improved by educating people within the justice system. The speakers acknowledged that many of the people working and handling individual cases within the system are genuinely passionate about upholding justice. And these attorneys will continue to do so proudly for the rest of their careers.

In these uncertain times, it is incredibly inspiring to hear from leading practitioners and enforcers in the field of white collar enforcement. Thank you to the panelists Charu Chandrasekhar, Una Dean, Joon H. Kim, and Leo R. Tsao and moderator Edward Y. Kim for sharing their experience and insights in the field of justice.

To view a recording of this program, please click on the video image at the top of this blog post.

NAPABA Mourns the Passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

For Immediate Release: September 21, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) joins the nation in mourning the passing of legal icon, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. NAPABA extends its sincere condolences to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Justice Ginsburg was a brilliant legal mind and a steadfast champion for equal rights throughout her career,” said Bonnie Lee Wolf, president of NAPABA. “The second woman to serve on the Court, Justice Ginsburg paved the way for the women of our generation. Despite graduating first in her class at Columbia Law School, she struggled to find employment. Her confirmation and tenure on the Supreme Court serve as an enduring inspiration and a reminder of the challenges that women face in society and the workplace. I am eternally grateful for her service to our nation. She fought to the very end, and we will honor her memory in doing the same—in our tireless pursuit for justice, equity, and opportunity for all.”

Justice Ginsburg served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years and was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. We will strive to honor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy in the next appointment.

Common Threads of Justice: Get to Know Hon. Peter Tom

The Historical Society of the New York Courts continues its month-long celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month with its 2017 film Get to Know: Hon. Peter Tom. At the time of the interview, Justice Tom served as the Acting Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department.
 
The now-retired Justice Tom speaks of his upbringing in Hong Kong, and how his early years in the United States brought him to an interest in the law. He traces his judicial career from Housing Court Judge to Appellate Division Justice. He also discusses the importance of boxing in his life. The film comes full circle in Justice Tom’s reflections on the American dream.

Congratulations to Ushir Pandit-Durant on Her Historic Induction as Queens Supreme Court Justice

On December 21, the Hon. Ushir Pandit-Durant made history as the first South Asian judge elected to New York State Supreme Court in Queens and the first South Asian woman judge elected in New York State. Justice Pandit-Duran was sworn in by the Hon. Randall T. Eng (ret.), former Presiding Justice of the Second Department, New York State Appellate Division. Justice Eng was the first Asian American elected judge in New York State so it was especially fitting for one trailblazer in the Asian American community to swear in another trailblazer. Hon. Joseph Zayas, Administrative Judge of the Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term, presided.

Justice Pandit-Duran began her career as a Prosecutor in the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, serving there with distinction for 25 years before being elected to New York City Civil Court in 2015, becoming the first South Asian to hold that elected office.

The induction took place at the Queens Supreme Court in Kew Gardens. Numerous speakers, including elected officials and community leaders, extolled Justice Pandit-Duran’s exemplification of the American Dream, coming here at age 10 not speaking a word of English and rising up to become a top prosecutor and now judge. As a South Asian, Justice Pandit-Durant reflects the diversity of Queens, one of the most diverse boroughs of New York City, with a large Asian population. Justice Pandit-Durant is herself a bar leader, having served as the first President of the South Asian Indo-Caribbean Bar Association of Queens.

AABANY congratulates Justice Pandit-Durant on her historic election and wishes her continued success and achievement as a Justice of the Supreme Court.