Member Profile: Karen King Wins Unanimous Victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in Domestic Violence and International Custody Dispute Case

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On March 22, 2022, AABANY member Karen King argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Saada (20-1034), a case involving the interpretation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. Karen is a Partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, and an active member of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force. She sat down with AABANY to share reflections on the oral argument, diversity among litigators, and the importance of pro bono work. 

Looking back, the law was a natural career choice for Karen.  She was president of the debate team in high school as well as at Yale University, where she majored in philosophy and political science.  After receiving her J.D. from Harvard Law School, she moved to New York and began her career at Cravath.  Two decades later, she appears regularly in federal and state courts on behalf of corporate clients, she was named a “Notable Woman in Law” by Crain’s New York Business, and she received both the Federal Bar Council’s Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)’s Pro Bono award.  Her pro bono clients include victims of discrimination, survivors of domestic violence, students with learning disabilities, victims of gun violence, and prisoners on civil rights issues. 

Karen’s impressive career reached another milestone this year when she had her first argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Saada . She represents Narkis Golan, an American citizen and survivor of domestic violence, and mother to a young child who was born in Italy.  The case has been pending for nearly four years and was accepted by the Supreme Court for argument last December to resolve a circuit split on whether district courts are required to consider ameliorative measures to facilitate return of a child to a foreign country, even after finding that return would subject the child to a “grave risk” of exposure to harm.

During oral argument, the justices were active in their questioning and seemed interested in how best to address situations where the grave risk is sourced to a complex problem like domestic violence.  “Am I correct that the vast majority of these grave risk cases are ones involving domestic violence?” asked Justice Barrett, who continued to say: “It just seems to me that that’s a much different case for ameliorative measures than, say, the nuclear plant next door that the Chief posited at the outset.  That would be a pretty straightforward move, and then there would be no more grave risk, whereas I think you get into the complexity of the financial support payments and the undertaking or restraining order, however it should be categorized, in these domestic abuse cases that pose maybe a unique circumstance?”  The recording of oral argument is available here

When asked whether she expected at the outset that this case would reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Karen replied that she did not. She added that, at the start of the case in 2018, “we were hopeful that it would end at the trial level.” But despite establishing, by clear and convincing evidence, that return to Italy would expose the child to a grave risk of harm, the case went back and forth to the Second Circuit on the question of appropriate ameliorative measures.  Ultimately, Karen and the team came to believe that the interpretation of the Hague Convention set forth by the Second Circuit required review by the Supreme Court.  Despite the extraordinarily slim odds of having a case accepted for argument, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to weigh in on the cert petition and ultimately granted cert. 

Arguing before the Supreme Court is the dream of many litigators. Karen prepared through “lots of moots [i.e., practice sessions], testing answers to every conceivable question we could think of, and reflection and discussion of the issues with colleagues, co-counsel, and pretty much anyone willing to talk about it.” In terms of approach to oral argument, she felt she needed to get straight to the point and anticipate challenging questions from the Justices about the key legal issues. Although the preparation process was similar to what she has done for other appellate arguments, it was clearly “more nerve-wracking, more high profile, and more work.”  She credits having an amazing team supporting her at Morvillo, the incredible work of the Paul, Weiss team (her former firm and co-counsel throughout the case), and the lawyers at the Zashin firm (co-counsel at the Supreme Court merits stage).  Although the oral argument was in person, it was not open to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions.  Karen was accompanied only by co-counsel Dan Levi from Paul, Weiss on the big day.  

At the Supreme Court argument, the Solicitor General’s office was represented by Frederick Liu, and the Respondent Jacky Saada was represented by Richard Min, a family law attorney in New York.  It is believed that this was the first time all three advocates arguing a case before the Supreme Court were of AAPI descent. This is a remarkable moment for the AAPI community, and for AAPI litigators.  Karen recognizes that it was important to “push [herself] to create the moment” and not to “be intimidated by milestones.” 

Karen is a strong advocate for diversity in the courtroom and in law firms.  She advises young litigators to strengthen their courtroom skills and give back to the community through pro bono work.  Karen has been recognized for her pro bono commitment over the years and generally works on one or two ongoing pro bono matters on top of her regular workload. Reflecting on her career thus far, Karen sees her persistence, optimism, and creative thinking, as survival skills that have led to great opportunities.  “You just have to push through… . Keep you head up and keep moving toward your goals.  Don’t let the machine crush you.” 

Oral argument in Golan v. Saada (20-1034) by Todd Crespi

Karen King, Richard Min, and Fred Liu, who argued Golan v. Saada (20-1034)

In The News: AABANY’S Karen King Co-Authors New York Law Journal Article in DOJ’s China Initiative

On November 8, 2021, the New York Law Journal published an article co-authored by Pro Bono & Community Service Committee Co-Chair Karen King, together with fellow Morvillo Abramowitz Partner Telemachus Kasulis. The article is entitled “DOJ’s China Initiative’s Three-Year Anniversary: Growing Pains and Uncertainty.” 

The article discussess how the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative” encourages discrimination and racial profiling against Asian Americans. The China initiative was started three years ago to combat economic and national security threats from the Chinese government. The article reveals how in reality only a small portion of cases involved actual charges of economic espionage or conspiracy. In one instance, a Chinese Canadian engineering professor, Anming Hu, was wrongly prosecuted for being a Chinese spy and was acquitted of all charges this past September. 

The authors note a parallel of the China Initiative to other discriminatory acts: “Critics continue to liken the China Initiative to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, McCarthyism, and racial profiling against Muslims in the wake of the September 11th attacks.” 

The article relates that the Biden administration has only made five new cases public. The authors note that the Biden administration appears to be stepping away from non-disclosure cases in which ties to the Chinese government appear weak. 

To read the full article, click on the following link: 

https://files.constantcontact.com/d6baf1e7801/f2add8b0-8343-4378-956c-6826d2ca9289.pdf

AABANY Releases Report on Anti-Asian Hate Amid COVID-19

An eight-fold increase in reported hate crimes against Asians, racist rhetoric such as “the Chinese virus,” and insufficient media coverage of anti-Asian violence — these were among the timely issues discussed at a press conference hosted by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) on February 11. The press conference centered around 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. Speakers of note included:

  • Chris Kwok, Board Director, Issues Committee Chair
  • Karen King, Vice Chair, Pro Bono & Community Service Committee; Counsel, Paul, Weiss
  • U.S. Rep., Grace Meng (D-NY)
  • Prof. Russell Jeung, Stop AAPI Hate
  • President Frank Wu, Queens College, CUNY
AABANY President Sapna Palla and Executive Director Yang Chen were joined by executive editors of the report Chris Kwok and Karen King, professors Russell Jeung and Frank Wu, and Congresswoman Grace Meng.

The report’s primary finding is that anti-Asian hate and violence surged in 2020. Between March and September of that year, the number of reported anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 exceeded 2,500. 

At the press conference, Rep. Meng kickstarted the discussion of this grim reality by situating it against a backdrop of long-standing intolerance toward the AAPI community, which motivated the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Meng condemned some of the nation’s top government officials and social institutions for fanning the flames of this deep-rooted racism. As noted in the report, the xenophobic rhetoric of elected officials, paired with misinformation spread by the media, normalizes and fuels disease-based stigma against Asians. The subsequent uptick in violence against Asian communities motivated Meng to propose and help pass House Resolution 908 in 2020 denouncing all forms of anti-Asian sentiment. While Meng described the bill as largely symbolic, it has since been incorporated into President Biden’s presidential memorandum, which includes concrete measures to disseminate COVID-19 resources in different languages and improve the collection of data on hate crimes. Meng’s fight to amplify voices within the AAPI community thus lights the path forward. “We’ve taken a positive step — an initial step — but we must continue to speak out whenever and wherever anti-Asian sentiment rises,” said Meng. 

A similar desire to spotlight the plight of AAPIs motivated Chris Kwok to serve as an executive editor for the report on anti-Asian violence. Since the onset of the pandemic, Kwok noted at the conference, there has not been a single prosecution or civil resolution for any incident of anti-Asian bias. A key purpose of the report is thus to show that Asian invisibility in the political and legal space has real-life consequences. Moving forward, Kwok hopes to inspire a constructive dialogue among Asians and other Americans alike. To that end, the report highlights seven initiatives that will help policyholders at all levels keep communities safe and hold perpetrators of violence accountable. These initiatives range from broad prescriptions, such as public education campaigns and collaboration among minority groups, to specific remedies, such as clear reporting mechanisms for victims and the more consistent prosecution of hate crimes. 

Professor Russell Jeung continued the discussion of possible solutions to anti-Asian hate incidents while echoing his concern about the divisive effects of COVID-19. Drawing from data he helped collect for Stop AAPI Hate, Jeung said that among United States cities, New York City reported the second-highest number of hate incidents in the past year. Assessing the range of anti-Asian hate incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate, the report notes a concerning number of incidents involving verbal harassment, physical assault, and being coughed and spat on. Worse still, the youth and the elderly are the most common victims of racist attacks and consequent racial trauma. Among its federal recommendations to address this issue, Stop AAPI Hate proposes to expand civil rights protections for AAPIs experiencing discrimination, end the racial profiling of Chinese researchers, and mobilize a federal interagency response to anti-Asian hate amid the pandemic. As Jeung is quick to emphasize, this fight for the civil rights of Asian Americans is a fight to expand protections for all Americans. “Please stand up, speak out, build bridges, and together we can make good on the promise of a diverse democracy,” said Jeung.

In promoting the proposals of Stop AAPI Hate and the report, for which he wrote the foreword, Queens College President Frank Wu highlighted the importance of building multi-racial coalitions. Wu identified Black, Latinx, and other underrepresented communities as allies to the AAPI community. As emphasized in the report, stronger collaboration among such minority groups is especially critical in communities like New York City, whose diversity heightens the danger that hate incidents exacerbate racial politics. “It would be a mistake of principle and pragmatism to point the finger at another group and suggest that others are guilty by association,” said Wu. Instead, we must look to universal values and American ideals as forces for national unity. As Wu writes in the foreword to the report, “To be Asian American is to be American, to express confidence enough in an experiment of self-governance to participate wholeheartedly.”

President Frank Wu, Queens College, CUNY, wrote the foreword of the report.

Rep. Meng concluded the press conference by calling on all Americans, especially those raised in the United States, to identify and combat racism when it occurs within their own circles. Meng stated that too often, stories of victims from the AAPI community are left out of mainstream media and the public consciousness. Along with implementing the aforementioned policy recommendations, therefore, Meng emphasized the need for racial solidarity. Only then can Americans progress toward the shared goal of dismantling systemic racism in this country and advancing justice for all. 

ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF REPORT ON RISE OF ANTI-ASIAN VIOLENCE IN NEW YORK DURING COVID-19

NEW YORK – February 10, 2021 – The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) is proud to announce the release of its report co-authored with Paul, Weiss, ​A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions​. Executive editors of the report were Chris Kwok, AABANY Board Director and Issues Committee Chair, and Karen King, Vice Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and Counsel at Paul, Weiss. The report is dedicated to Corky Lee, who passed away on January 27, 2021 due to COVID-19. Corky was a revered photographer in the Asian American community who had been documenting the effort to combat anti-Asian violence and harassment in the wake of COVID-19. Read more here.

To read A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions, click here.

Congratulations to Karen King on Receiving NAPABA’s Pro Bono Award

We congratulate Karen King, AABANY Member and Counsel at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, on being presented NAPABA’s Pro Bono Award during the Gala at the NAPABA Convention in Austin, Texas on Saturday, November 9, 2019. 

This award recognizes an attorney for outstanding achievement in Pro Bono service that involves impact litigation to advance or protect civil rights and provides direct legal services to individuals in furtherance of the administration of justice.

One of the pro bono cases that Karen was recognized for lasted for over 10 years and involved bias and discrimination in the promotion practices of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority against Asian American Police Officers. Karen found her work on the case to be very important for Asian Americans and rewarding for herself. In her video accepting the award, Karen remarked that young lawyers need to look for and seize opportunities to advance their careers “… and pro bono is an excellent way to do that.”

We are extremely excited and pleased that Karen received this prestigious honor. Please join us in congratulating her.

We commend Paul, Weiss on emphasizing, supporting, and encouraging their lawyers to engage in Pro Bono work and for being a Gold Sponsor.