AABANY Board Director Chris Kwok had the pleasure of interviewing Hon. Randall T. Eng (ret.) on May 7, for the Historical Society of the New York Courts’s podcast. Justice Eng was a pioneer in many respects for Asian Americans pursuing leadership roles in the legal profession. He became the first Asian American judge in New York State, one of many firsts for this trailblazer. Chris Kwok and Justice Eng discuss his life from his earliest days in Queens and China, the transition to becoming a lawyer, and the many obstacles Judge Eng faced as an Asian American in the legal profession, during a time when there was far less diversity in the profession. Today’s surge in anti-Asian hate and violence around the country renders Judge Eng’s life story more salient than ever.
To watch or listen to the recording of the interview, click here.
In April, Hon. Randall T. Eng and Hon. Lillian Wan came together to discuss the dearth of Asian American representation among New York’s judiciary and public offices. In a podcast episode published by the Historical Society of the New York Courts, they open up about their career paths and the obstacles they faced while pursuing their respective careers. When Judge Eng took up his jurist position in 1983, there were no other Asian American jurists within the city or state of New York. Now, there are 39 sitting Asian American jurists. Though the number of Asian American jurists has increased, progress has been exceedingly slow.
This past May was Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so the conversation between Hon. Lillian Wan and Hon. Randall Eng was featured on the Society’s home page. Hon. Lillian Wan, President of the Asian American Judges Association of New York, an AABANY member and a member of the Society’s Board of Trustees, has been nominated as a candidate for the New York State Supreme Court in Kings County and currently serves as Kings County Supreme Court Civil Term Judge. Throughout their conversation, Judge Wan and Judge Eng discuss how Asian American attorneys today can advocate for Asian American representation in positions of legal leadership, as well as judicial and public offices.
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.
WASHINGTON – This morning, NAPABA President A.B. Cruz III testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property at a hearing entitled, “The Importance of a Diverse Federal Judiciary, Part 2: The Selection and Confirmation Process.” President Cruz’s testimony on behalf of NAPABA highlighted the challenges that Asian Pacific American attorneys often encounter as they attempt to advance in the legal profession. According to the 2017 landmark study “A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law” (“Portrait Project”) published jointly by NAPABA and Yale Law School, the most often cited issues are lack of mentorship and role models, lack of leadership training, and work going unrecognized. President Cruz’s testimony also drew on the Portrait Projects finding that the selection process for clerkships or law firm promotion – often a prerequisite for judicial consideration, involves not only measures of objective criteria but also access to mentorship and subjective criteria which are often amorphous factors that decision makers rely on to determine whom they regard as their proteges. President Cruz was joined on the panel by his Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) colleague and Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) President Elia Diaz Yeager.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting APA 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 all backgrounds in the legal profession..
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.
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, AABANY is proud to present “Fortune 500 General Counsel Panel: Leadership during Crisis” as part of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”) General Counsel Webinar Series. The event will feature a panel of prominent General Counsels covering a wide variety of industries to discuss topics that range from advice to aspiring General Counsels, crisis management with a focus on the response to the pandemic, collaboration with the board and c-suite, demonstrating legal department value from a quantitative and qualitative perspective, leveraging legal technology, enhancing the compliance function, diversity and inclusion initiatives (internally and externally with outside counsel) and maximizing the value that outside counsel brings to companies. The panel will take place via Zoom on Thursday, May 21, from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.
Michael Wu. Michael currently serves as the Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of Madewell. He sits on the advisory boards of the Georgetown Law Corporate Counsel Institute and AABANY. Michael is also a member of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association Board of Directors. He has previously served as an executive and general counsel at companies including Carter’s, Rosetta Stone, Teleglobe, and Global One.
Damien Atkins. Damien currently serves as the General Counsel of the Hershey Company. He has previously served for three years as the General Counsel for Panasonic North America, for ten years as the Deputy GC (Corporate) and Chief Compliance Officer for AOL, and for seven years at a major New York City law firm. In addition, Damien has previously founded two start-ups. His expertise includes mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, securities regulation, global ethics and compliance, and government investigations.
Peter Beshar. Peter currently serves as the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Marsh & McLennan. Previously, he was a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and served as the Co-Chair of the firm’s Securities Litigation Group and had served as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the New York State Attorney General’s Task Force on Illegal Firearms. Additionally, he has served as the Special Assistant to the Honorable Cyrus Vance in connection with the United Nations’ peace negotiations in the former Yugoslavia.
Elisa Garcia. Elisa currently serves as the Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel of Macy’s and serves on the Board of Directors and Nominating and Governance Committee of Dollarama, Inc. and the Board of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession. She has previously served as an executive for Office Depot, Domino’s Pizza, and Philip Morris International.
David Hyman. David currently serves as the General Counsel of Netflix and as the company’s Secretary. Prior to Netflix, David served as General Counsel of Webvan, Inc. and was with the law firms Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco and Arent Fox in Washington, DC.
Alan Tse. Alan currently serves as the Global Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of JLL. Previously, Alan served as an executive for Petco, Churchill Downs, LG Electronics, Ligos Corporation, and Centerpoint Broadband Technologies. He is a co-founder and Board member of the Asian American Legal Foundation and has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Corporate Counsel from 2013-2019. Alan was recognized by NAPABA as one of its Best Lawyers Under 40 and received the Corporate Leadership Award at AABANY’s 2020 Annual Dinner.
David Yawman. David currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of PepsiCo. Previously, he served as the Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for PepsiCo and General Counsel for North America and Corporate, the Senior Vice President, Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer for PepsiCo, the General Counsel of business units comprised of North America Beverages, Quaker Foods North America and Latin America Beverages, the Associate General Counsel for the Pepsi Bottling Group, and had spent six years as a member of PepsiCo’s corporate law department. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Dave was an associate with the law firm Fried Frank and served as a law clerk in the United States District Court.
“AABANY is pleased to be co-sponsoring the NAPABA General Counsel webinar series,” states President Sapna Palla. “Each of the first two webcasts have already seen attendance by nearly 500 attorneys from all across the country. We are looking forward to a similar turnout for the one AABANY is presenting on May 21. We thank Michael Wu for organizing these webcasts and serving as moderator to guide the discussion on important topics of interest to attorneys across a broad range of industries and sectors. Through these programs, and as we celebrate APA Heritage Month in May, we continue to highlight the vital role played by diverse in-house attorneys in leading and advancing the legal profession.”
If interested, please register by May 20. Click on the flyer above for registration information.
AABANY congratulates My Chi To on her appointment as Executive Deputy Superintendent of the Insurance Division at the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS). In this role, she will oversee more than 1,400 insurance companies with $4.7 trillion in assets. My Chi To is an AABANY member and was a Partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, in the Restructuring Group and Global Insurance Practice.
According to the DFS Press Release which announced her appointment in November,
My Chi was awarded the Kathryn R. Heidt Memorial Award by the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association. She also received the Best Lawyers Under 40 Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. An advocate for women in law and business, she is a member of the Steering Committee of the U.S. 30% Club, a group of business leaders focused on improving the representation of women at all levels of U.S. organizations, including corporate boards. My Chi will join New York state’s Committee for the Advancement of Women in Leadership in Financial Services, which was announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in September.
She received an M.Phil. in Politics from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She received an LL.L. and LL.B. in Civil Law and Common Law from the University of Ottawa and was a law clerk to the Hon. Claire L’Heureux-Dubé of the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court of Canada.
The CUP Fellows Program is a transformative, one-year leadership development experience for early-to-mid career professionals of color across sectors who are deeply committed to supporting their communities through impactful contributions to the nonprofit and public sectors.
The CUP Fellows Program workshops and speakers provide participants with insight into the challenges and opportunities in the civic sector, and encourages participants to harness their power and relationships to create meaningful change, through board service, political engagement, volunteerism, public-private partnerships, etc.
The target participant profile includes self-motivated professionals of color from all sectors (public, private and nonprofit) with 5-10 years of professional work experience, a demonstrated commitment to public service, and a desire to acquire new skills and information to maximize their civic impact.
AABANY Board Member Brian Song is a former CUP Fellow, and if you are interested in learning more about the program from him, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the link in the title for further details about the CUP Fellows Program and how to apply.
In an interview with Bloomberg last week, former AABANY President Andy Hahn examined the obstacles that face Asian Americans in the law, from high attrition rates and underrepresentation to pervasive stereotypes and biases. On the heels of Justice Goodwin Liu’s study, “A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law,” the interview explored Andy Hahn’s own experiences, from his time as an army lawyer to his tenures as president of both AABANY and NAPABA, and how those roles have made Andy intimately familiar with the challenges of Asian Americans in the law. Despite large growth since the 1990s, the Asian American legal community faces gross underrepresentation today, from clerkships and judgeships to partner and management roles. This has led Andy to his own “crusade” to galvanize Asian Americans into participating in the law. Follow the link in the title to read the full article published in Bloomberg Law.
Andy’s work as a leader in the legal profession has not gone unnoticed, as the New York Law Journal recently honored him with the 2017 Distinguished Leadership Award. To read the press release congratulating him for this achievement, click here.
Here is the intro video for Glenn Lau-Kee when he was honored back in April during the Museum of Chinese in America’s Celebration of Community Heroes. The video mentions Glenn’s leadership as AABANY President (1997-98) and as the first Asian American President of the New York State Bar Association (2014-15). AABANY Executive Director Yang Chen appears in the video, along with other community leaders, to salute Glenn and his contributions to not just the Asian American community but the larger community as well. Thank you, Glenn, for all that you do. You are truly an inspiration to us all and a genuine Community Hero. Congratulations, again!