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.”
The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates Tax Committee Co-Chair Libin Zhang on his recent law review article about the proposed Pied-à-Terre tax impact on Real Estate in the New York Law Journal.
The article begins as follows:
It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has reduced New York City’s government revenues: sales taxes are down due to a decline in retail sales, there is less use of public transportation, and some individuals have moved out of the city. But as the late 20th century American proverb goes, in every crisis there is opportunity. A revised “pied-à-terre tax” has been introduced in both chambers of the New York State Legislature, which would create an annual property tax of up to 13.5% on certain residential properties with assessed values of $300,000 or more.
Although the latest pied-à-terre tax proposal is an improvement on prior versions, for example by no longer imposing the tax on most rental properties, some issues and questions remain. The tax, if enacted, may affect New York City real estate.
To read the full article, click here (subscription required).
The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates Issues Committee Chair, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair and Board Director Chris Kwok on his recent article published on September 1, 2020 in the New York Law Journal entitled “Mediating Employment Disputes Ethically: Ensuring Quality and Fairness in the #MeToo, #BLM, #COVID-19 Era.”
In the article, Mr. Kwok begins by exploring the value of mediation and the importance of mediators upholding ethical standards to ensure a just process in the #MeToo, #BLM, #COVID-19 era. Mr. Kwok then delves into the novel challenges that virtual negotiations bring, ranging from the issue of confidentiality and stability of internet connections to the ethics of avoiding categorization of damages as reparations for sexual harassment.
In 2005, the American Arbitration Association, American Bar Association, and Association for Conflict Resolution promulgated the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators that has since served as a central guide for mediators who encounter ethical conundrums. The article concludes by suggesting that the emergence of unprecedented technological and confidentiality concerns in a challenging time call for a potential revisitation of the Model Standards of Conduct and prompts readers to ponder the changing scope of ethical duties mediators need to take on.
On June 26th, the New York Law Journal announced the winners of the coveted 2020 Rising Stars category. This award recognizes the region’s most promising lawyers who are no older than 40 by the submission date. AABANY is proud to announce that three of the twenty seven recipients are members.
AABANY congratulates Ting S. Chen of Cravath, Swaine, & Moore, Jeffery Mok of Fish & Richardson P.C., and Ji Hye You of Schulte Roth & Zabel for impressive professional achievements and promise they have demonstrated thus far in their careers. Ting leads AABANY’s Corporate Law Committee as Co-Chair and Jeff leads AABANY’s Intellectual Property Committee as Co-Chair.
For further details and to read the official announcement, click here (subscription required).
The New York Law Journal featured “Child Care Must Be a Men’s Issue for True Equality,” a letter to the editor by Doris Ling-Cohan, AABANY member and Associate Justice for the Appellate Term, First Department.
Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan recalls the time she and her husband had to juggle child care responsibilities and their professional responsibilities. She notes what Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, that in order for there to be true equality for women child care cannot just be viewed as a women’s issue by society.
Congratulations to Chris Kwok, Director on AABANY’s Board and Chair of the Issues Committee and Co-Chair of the Asia Practice Committee, on being published in the New York Law Journal. Below is a quote from his article, which can be accessed by clicking the link above. Please note that to read the entire article, you must have a New York Law Journal subscription.
Given the historical exclusion of minorities from the legal profession, the lack of diversity in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is not surprising. The diversity and inclusion issue is magnified by the unique features of the ADR field. Neutrals with diverse backgrounds can help administer justice in today’s increasingly diverse society, as they are a reflection of the people they serve. Of course, mere diversity is not enough; the meaningful inclusion of those diverse candidates in the industry is the next chapter of the ADR story.