Statement of Asian American Judges Association of New York on AAPI Underrepresentation in the New York State Judiciary

July 20, 2021 

As Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) jurists in the New York State court  system we celebrated AAPI Heritage month in May for the first time in our Courts by  participating in panels, co-hosting events, and acknowledging the many jurists that blazed the  trail for us. We also recognized the work that remains for the Courts to be inclusive of the AAPI  experience.  

Our fairly young history in the New York State Judiciary began only 38 years ago with  the appointment of the Hon. Randall Eng to the New York City Criminal Court bench in 1983. It  continued with the historic elections of the Hon. Peter Tom and the Hon. Dorothy Chin Brandt to  the New York County Civil Court in 1987. Judges Eng and Tom were the first Asian Americans  appointed to the Appellate Division and even served simultaneously as Presiding Justice and  Acting Presiding Justice in 2016. Equally historic was the election of the Hon. Anil Singh in  2002, the first elected South Asian judge, and his subsequent appointment to the Appellate  Division in 2017. The Hon. Raja Rajeswari became the first South Asian judge appointed in  New York in 2015.  

While we are proud to celebrate our “firsts,” many of us remain the “only,” and the AAPI  community remains underrepresented in the judiciary. Secretary Jeh Johnson highlighted this  fact in his October 1, 2020 report on equal justice in the New York State Courts, where he noted that AAPIs comprise 8.5% of New Yorkers and only 2.6% of the judiciary. Currently, there are  only 39 AAPI judges in all of New York State, and that is out of 1,227 jurists. Secretary Johnson  also reported that in New York City, AAPI people comprise 14.1% of the population and only  6.3% of the judiciary, and that the AAPI community remains underrepresented among judges  chosen by election. 37 of the 39 AAPI judges preside in New York City, and there are only two elected AAPI judges north of New York City. There has never been an AAPI judge elected in  Brooklyn, Staten Island or the Bronx. Only two out of the 86 Court of Claims judges are AAPI, and there are no South Asian jurists. No AAPI jurists currently sit on our intermediate appellate  courts in the Second, Third, and Fourth Departments. No AAPI has ever been appointed to the Court of Appeals.  

Of the 63 supervisory or administrative judicial positions in New York State, there are  only two AAPI jurists. None of the 12 Administrative Judges in New York City, 10  Administrative Judges outside New York City and 21 Supervising Judges outside of New York  City are AAPI jurists. These statistics show that Asian American and Pacific Islanders lack a full voice in the administration of justice in New York State.  

We call upon public officials, the Office of Court Administration, bar associations and  judicial screening committees to place a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion that  recognizes and includes the AAPI community across all levels of the New York State Courts.  We also call upon our own AAPI community to be more proactive in all of the different stages of  the judicial appointment and electoral processes so that we can ensure that there is a multitude of  qualified candidates available for consideration. We hope to look back in the near future at the  progress we expect to achieve.

New York State Courts Gay Pride Event, June 28

I know we are all reeling from the insanity of this indescribably horrific tragedy in Orlando, and we all feel the pain.  It is terrible and hard to fathom.  But I am a big believer in celebrating life, particularly in the face of something like this.  If we lose our hearts, if we forget the celebrate the beauty of the world and of coming together, then we have truly lost.  With that in mind, I ask you all to bring some joy with you along with the hurt I know is echoed in each of us. Think about how much love and support have been given so freely and genuinely by Americans everywhere in this time of grief.  It is clear that the people of our nation have grown so much in recent years and that LGBT Americans are finding greater and greater acceptance and respect.   It is impossible to not feel moved by the outpouring of love and inclusiveness by all Americans, gay, straight, all skin tones, all cultures, all religions.

Thank you for all your hard work.

So, to brighten the spirits, we have arranged for a festive meal from the fantastic Il Cortile restaurant on Mulberry Street – you are in for a treat, so don’t eat dinner before.  And as always, you can count on quality desserts in the form of mini-pastries from Brooklyn’s Monteleone’s Bakery in Carroll Gardens.  Bring your appetites, bring your love for those we have lost, and bring your joy for what we have accomplished and will do in the years ahead.

I hope we will see you Tuesday, June 28 at 60 Centre Street, 6pm, for what I am certain will be a meaningful event.

Marc Levine
President of the Alliance
– the Gay/Straight Alliance of the New York State Courts