On December 15, the New York Law Journal published an op-ed titled, “Jeffrey K. Oing: The Chief Judge All New Yorkers Need Now,” written by President William Ng. The op-ed states in relevant part:
A New Yorker with over thirty years of legal and administrative experience, the majority of which has been in public service, Justice Oing stands out as the candidate with the most experience in all three branches of government — judicial, legislative, and executive.
This breadth of experience makes Oing the ideal judge to help make government work better for all New Yorkers. Indeed, before his illustrious career on the bench, Oing served as Deputy General Counsel to the New York City Council and worked on issues such as re-districting under the Voting Rights Act.
Earlier in his career, Oing provided legal and policy advice to the New Jersey State Governor and cabinet members on various pending legislation concerning constitutional law, civil justice, consumer affairs and employee relations.
If Oing is nominated, Hochul will have full confidence that she is selecting an experienced judge who understands well how government works and who has dedicated his professional career to public service and delivering justice.
The op-ed concludes with the statement that New York has never had a judge of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent sitting on its highest court, and Governor Hochul would not only be appointing a highly qualified jurist to serve as Chief Judge, she would also be making history and adding much needed diversity to the state’s highest court.
To read the full op-ed, click here (subscription required).
We expect Gov. Hochul to announce her decision by Dec. 23, and AABANY continues to urge the Governor to nominate Justice Oing to be Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals.
On December 16, AABANY sent a letter to Governor Hochul calling on her to reject the New York City Bar Association’s “not well qualified” rating of Hon. Jeffrey K. Oing. AABANY was joined on the letter by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and the following New York bar associations:
Defense Association of New York
Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York
Jewish Lawyers Guild
Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York
The Women’s Trial Lawyers Caucus separately sent a letter to the Governor indicating its support for both Justice Oing and the call to reject the “not well qualified rating.”
All signatories were unanimous in calling on the Governor to reject the bizarre outlier rating given by the New York City Bar Association, with reference to the New York Law Journal article (subscription required) from Dec. 14 about the controversial and unusual rating.
AABANY stands by its statement released on December 12 endorsing Justice Oing as the most highly qualified candidate for the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals and continues to urge the Governor to nominate him as Chief Judge.
On June 30, 2022, New York Law Journal published an article interviewing New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) President, Vince Chang (a former AABANY President (2007)), on his insights about New York’s conceal-carry regulations. Chang suggests there’s a limited number of places where permit holders can conceal-carry their guns in New York.
Governor Hochul and other state legislatures convened in Albany late June to discuss the extent of regulating the concealed carry of firearms and their impact on the public safety of New Yorkers. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen has forced government officials, including Gov. Hochul, to act swiftly and address the likelihood of an increase in licenses and in the number of individuals who will likely purchase and carry weapons in New York State. The legislation is meant to strengthen New York’s gun laws to bolster restrictions on concealed carry weapons and still align with the ruling in Bruen.
Chang spoke in favor of regulating New York laws on conceal carry by stating that guns should be excluded from public areas including governmental locations, public transit, auditoriums, arenas, health care facilities, places where alcohol is served, and houses of worship. “We urge the legislature to implement laws to that effect, and we believe it probably will,” Chang said.
According to Chang, an individual’s right to property takes precedence over their Second Amendment right, and property owners have the right to exclude firearms from their property. Just as private property owners can welcome concealed carry permit holders, those property owners who do not want firearms on their premises can restrict them by placing signs prohibiting them on their private property.
Under Chang’s leadership, NYCLA was the only bar association in the state to file an amicus brief supporting the New York state law at issue in Bruen. NYCLA recommended fingerprinting, background checks, mental health record checks, and training in firearms as a counter for the “conservative and reckless” Supreme Court decision. NYCLA’s letter to Gov. Hochul stated how the Bruen decision “effectively switched the burden of proof from the applicant who had to demonstrate proper cause, to the state, which must demonstrate, under deniable standards, that a license should not be granted.” Gov. Hochul’s new legislative package emphasizes the government’s priority to keep the public safe and prevent deaths and injuries by firearms. The law will take effect on September 1, 2022.
Read the full article here. (Subscription required.)
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:
On September 14th, The New York Law Journal reported that Judge Denny Chin of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (and past AABANY President, 1992-93) became Fordham Law’s first ever Lawrence W. Pierce Distinguished Jurist in Residence. This distinction allows Judge Chin to continue his role as a Judge while devoting more of his time to teaching and building connections with the law students at Fordham. Judge Chin is especially excited to teach classes that deal with Asian Americans and the law saying the topic is “dear to my heart.”
To read the full article, click here (subscription required).
On August 4th, the New York Law Journal announced the winners of the coveted 2021 Rising Stars Award. This award recognizes the region’s most promising lawyers who are no older than 40 by the submission date. AABANY congratulates its member, Shengyang Wu, on being honored with this accolade. AABANY congratulates all recipients of this year’s NYLJ Rising Stars Award.
Shengyang is an attorney at Wenjie Sun and Associates, P.C. and a partner at Alpha Law. Shengyang also has volunteered at AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic and is a panelist on AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service. AABANY commends Shengyang on his impressive professional achievements and the promise that he has demonstrated thus far in his career. To read the official announcement in the New York Law Journal, click here.
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 is proud to spotlight Hon. Peter Tom, the 2021 recipient of the New York State Bar Association’s George Bundy Smith Pioneer Award. Justice Tom says he is honored to receive an award named after Judge Smith, whom he always considered a good judge and good friend. Judge Smith served on the New York Court of Appeals and was a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement. Since 2007, the honor in his namesake has been accorded to lawyers who demonstrate a similar level of commitment to legal excellence, community service and mentoring. Justice Tom has done just that in his trailblazing, thirty-plus year judicial career.
After graduating from Brooklyn Law School in 1975, Justice Tom joined the Civil Court of the City of New York as a Law Clerk, working on a wide variety of criminal and civil assignments. As he grew comfortable in the court system, he began rethinking his original plans to start his own law firm, and in 1985, Justice Tom became the first Asian American appointed to the Housing Court of the City of New York. Although he could not have known it then, this initial foray into the court system would launch a long and distinguished career of judicial “firsts” for an Asian American. In 1987, Justice Tom was one of the first Asian Americans elected to the Civil Court of the City of New York; in 1990, he became the first Asian American elected to the New York State Supreme Court in New York County; and from 1994 until 2008, he served as the first and only Asian American in the Appellate Division of the State of New York.
While Justice Tom’s judicial career is defined by a multitude of groundbreaking rulings and widely publicized opinions, his success spanned beyond the walls of the courtroom. At age 18, Justice Tom became the first Asian American to win the New York Golden Gloves — amateur boxing’s most prestigious tournament. What began as a tactic for self-defense had landed him in Madison Square Garden’s ring on the week of four exams. As his attention flitted from schoolwork to boxing, the young Tom was learning a lesson that stuck with him even after he swapped his gloves for a gavel. In the words of the Justice, “You cannot excel at more than one thing in life because there’s just not enough time to prepare yourself. So work harder than the competition in whatever you do, and you’ll come out ahead.”
And work hard he did. While his days in retirement have been dedicated to exercise, art, and travel, Justice Tom spent much of his professional career burning the midnight oil. In his very first judicial position, the then-Housing Court Judge was swamped with twenty to thirty new cases on a daily basis. Justice Tom recalls laboring to reach as many settlements as possible on the weekdays before spending entire weekends writing legal opinions. During this time, a frequent visitor of his was the courthouse custodian, who would come in at midnight to send the indefatigable judge home before locking up.
The concept of halfhearted work was just as foreign to Justice Tom then as it was years earlier in the boxing ring. While serving on the New York Supreme Court, he sought to instill the same tenacity in his interns, whom he taught that nothing short of absolute focus was essential for success. It is this sort of tireless work ethic that Justice Tom hopes to impress upon all aspiring jurists: “Nothing in life comes easy, so build a strong reputation for yourself by volunteering your time to your community and by working hard.”
Over the course of his judicial career, Justice Tom authored more than 500 legal opinions, many of which received front page coverage in the New York Law Journal. As a testament to the fairness of his decisions, the Court of Appeals regularly affirmed his opinions and used his dissents as the basis for reversal. In one of his most groundbreaking rulings, Justice Tom employed a 100-year-old “Bawdy House Statute” for the first time to evict drug dealers from residential property. His decision could not have come at a more opportune moment for New York, which was then being ravaged by the 1980s crack epidemic. Employing Justice Tom’s novel application of the statute, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office subsequently established a Narcotics Eviction Part throughout the city’s Civil Courts. The Justice’s ingenuity thereby helped to convert an obscure law from 1840 into a potent weapon for clearing out crack dens across the city.
While serving in the Appellate Division, Justice Tom enjoyed hearing cases on the whole spectrum of legal issues, from commercial and criminal to housing and family. One particular case, however, remains among his proudest accomplishments. People v. Luis Kevin Rojas centered on the wrongful murder conviction of Luis Rojas, whose lawyer had failed to investigate his alibi and even ineptly indicated during trial that Rojas was present at the crime scene. After his conviction, Rojas hired new lawyers and private investigators, who unearthed evidence that seemed to vindicate Rojas entirely. Writing for the appellate panel, Justice Tom castigated the defendant’s trial counsel for his “ignorance of the facts” and reversed Rojas’ conviction and his sentence of 15 years to life. Justice Tom’s decision, which saved an innocent man from a potential lifetime in prison, was featured in both the New York Times and the New York Law Journal.
Though his extensive resume of legal triumphs might suggest otherwise, Justice Tom’s judicial path was not always seamless. Among the obstacles he faced was the former lack of a bar association representing Asian Americans. While AABANY now boasts nearly 1500 members as the nation’s largest affinity bar association, it was still a nascent organization — only one year old — when Justice Tom applied for his third judicial position in 1990. At the time, there were well-established ethnic bar associations for virtually all the other minority candidates. The Jewish Lawyers Guild had been established in 1962, the LGBT Bar Association of New York in 1978, and so on. Justice Tom’s ability to climb the court system without similar representation was the exception rather than the norm, as revealed by the paucity of Asian American judges seated back then.
While diversity on the bench has since increased, today’s courts are still far from reflecting the diversity of the communities they serve. Justice Tom identifies the lack of AAPIs in the judiciary as the primary reason that Asian Americans do not feel comfortable participating in the system. Particularly amid the ongoing surge in anti-Asian violence, Justice Tom says that many Asians view the predominantly white court system as a foreign institution — one where their chances of achieving proper recourse are slim. In this context, Justice Tom believes that his various judicial appointments have helped Asian Americans feel more like a part of the institution themselves. AAPIs constitute a large portion of the New York population, and representation in the judiciary must reflect this population. According to Justice Tom, greater representation of Asians among court personnel at all levels, from officers and reporters to clerks and judges, will increase the fairness of the institution in both appearance and reality.
As a harbinger of the increased diversity he hopes for, Justice Tom left a judicial legacy that doubtlessly merits NYSBA’s George Bundy Smith Pioneer award. Looking forward, he believes that AABANY’s rapid growth will enable the association to play a critical role in seating even more Asian Americans on the bench. Because judges can only say so much while remaining bipartisan, Justice Tom views AABANY as an advocate that can speak on behalf of budding Asian American jurists. One can only hope that among this group of aspirants, some will follow in Justice Tom’s footsteps and emerge as the next generation of legal pioneers.
AABANY encourages everyone to attend the presentation of Justice Tom’s award at NYSBA’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Spring Meeting on Thursday, May 6, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The registration page for the award ceremony can be found here.
AABANY President Terry Shen was quoted in a New York Law Journal article published on April 6, 2021 titled “Former Federal Prosecutor Named US Magistrate Judge in Brooklyn.” The article highlights AABANY Past President James Cho, who was sworn in on Monday, April 5 as the Eastern District of New York’s newest magistrate judge and the district’s first Korean American judge.
In the article, Terry Shen was quoted praising the appointment as “another important step” toward more diversity on the bench. Speaking more about Judge Cho, Terry said: “In his time as president of AABANY, Judge Cho displayed a combination of insightful leadership, work ethic, and commitment to public service that will undoubtedly equip him to be an exceptional federal judge. We congratulate Mr. Cho on this outstanding achievement.”
To read the full article on Law.com, please click here (subscription may be required).
Margaret Ling, AABANY’s Officer, Director of Development, and founder and co-chair of the Real Estate Committee, was featured in a New York Law Journal article about the New York State Bar Association’s Women in Law panel held on January 26, 2021.
About midway through a New York State Bar Association panel on the challenges of retaining and advancing women attorneys, Margaret Ling, a veteran real estate lawyer, told the story of how she’d once toiled for months on an important matter only to be told by her male superior before a vital, well-attended matter meeting that “you are to sit there and you are to say nothing.”