Student Outreach Committee, Pro Bono Committee & AABANY Volunteers Promote Pro Bono Legal Clinic, Know Your Rights Resources, and AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service in Asian and Asian American Communities

On Saturday, September 4, 2021, the Student Outreach Committee and the Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) returned to Asian and Asian American communities across New York City to promote PBCS’s newly-back in person Pro Bono Clinic and AABANY’s COVID-19 Legal Know-Your-Rights Resources as well as AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service (LRIS). 

The Brooklyn Chinatown volunteers were led by May Wong, Judy Lee and Kwok Ng of the PBCS Committee, the Koreatown volunteers were led by Victor Roh and Will Lee, a key leader and organizer of last year’s event, and the Manhattan Chinatown volunteers were led by Nicholas Loh and Dianna Lam, another key leader and organizer of last year’s event.

This campaign built off the energy and momentum of the initial flyering campaign held last year over the July 4 holiday weekend, during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  This year’s campaign saw the addition of another community, Brooklyn Chinatown, and included over 40 volunteers from AABANY and law schools across the Greater New York area.

The results were impressive. Over 1,000 flyers in Chinese, Korean and English were distributed to local small businesses promoting AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic, Know-Your-Rights information, and the LRIS. Our student volunteers had meaningful opportunities to interact with small business owners who have been hit hard by a staggering two years of anti-Asian hate and violence, COVID-19 business disruptions, and the devastating impact on Asian businesses as a result of xenophobia and racism. 

This event would not have been possible without the co-sponsorship of AABANY’s Student Outreach Committee, AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, AABANY’s Young Lawyers Committee, Asian Americans for Equality, APALSAs from all across the Greater New York area and Mayer Brown.

Read more about AABANY’s PBCS Committee and Pro Bono Clinic, about AABANY’s LRIS service here, HEART here, and Know Your Rights info here. Thanks to all the organizers, co-sponsors, and — especially — all the student volunteers.

AABANY AAVTF Hosts a Community Workshop on “Self-Defense and Defense of Others” on June 30th

On June 30th, the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s (AABANY) Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF) hosted a community workshop on self-defense and defense of others. The speakers were Nassau County Assistant District Attorney and Prosecutors Committee Co-Chair Joseb Gim and St. John’s University Law School Professor and Academic Committee Co-Chair Elaine Chiu. The presentation was moderated by Eugene Love Kim, Legal Aid Society attorney and Vice-Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, and was translated into Cantonese and Mandarin by Kwok Ng, law clerk at the New York State Supreme Court and PBCS Committee Co-Chair, and Ye Qing, attorney at Morvillo Abramovitz, respectively. 

In light of the recent surge in anti-Asian violence and bias incidents, the presentation focused on the legal consequences that New York Penal Law has for self-defense. ADA Gim gave a summary of the laws and listed the various weapons that qualify as “deadly physical force” under New York Penal Law. These weapons include, but are not limited to, pepper spray, collapsible batons, and electric stun guns. ADA Gim also pointed out that, in exercising self-defense, unless a “reasonable person” would have made the same decision to defend themselves in your situation, using regular physical force or deadly physical force to defend yourself may lead to you being charged with  a criminal offense. Prof. Chiu briefly described the possibility of also being sued in a civil lawsuit but noted that using violence within the bounds of the New York Penal Law would prevent a judgment against you. 

At the end of the presentation, ADA Gim talked about more practical, immediate implications of the laws on self-defense and defense of others. He emphasized that, oftentimes, choosing to defend yourself will result in both you and the attacker being taken into police custody from the scene for further investigation and possible prosecution. He then discussed the importance of concrete evidence, 911 calls, recordings, and eyewitness testimony in corroborating your testimony. Both ADA Gim and Prof. Chiu also noted that individuals, before defending themselves, have a duty to flee dangerous situations unless they are attacked in their own homes. After the presentation, the discussion was opened to questions from the attendees.

AABANY thanks the members of the AAVTF for organizing the community workshop and for their service to the AAPI community of the greater New York metro area. To view the recording of the event, click here. To learn more about and to help fund the AAVTF’s initiatives, click here.

Pro Bono Committee Vice Chair Olympia Moy’s Wedding Story Featured in The New York Times

AABANY Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Vice Chair Olympia Moy and her partner Elizabeth Ingriselli’s wedding story was featured in an April 9, 2021 article in The New York Times titled “They Didn’t Need a Dating App After All.” 

Their story began in 2016 when Olympia came across Elizabeth’s profile on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel and became intrigued by their similar interests. Both of them had graduated from Princeton and both were interested in pursuing a career in law. Weeks later, after Olympia received no response to the “like” she left on Elizabeth’s profile, they both happened to attend the same Pride Month mixer in Manhattan. Instead of avoiding Elizabeth, Olympia struck a conversation with her and learned that Elizabeth had not rejected her on the dating app, but rather had not seen the “like.” They quickly became friends and after a few months of meeting, they went on their first date. On March 7, 2021, Olympia and Elizabeth held a small wedding ceremony at an outdoor dining structure in Chinatown within the Covid-19 guidelines. They plan to hold a second, larger celebration at the Princeton University Chapel next year. 

Please join AABANY in congratulating Olympia and Elizabeth on their marriage! To read their full wedding story, please click here.

Congratulations to AABANY Leader Eugene Kim, Assistant Editor for Book on 50 Asian Life Stories from Around the World

Eugene Kim, Vice-Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, is one of the editors of the recently published book 50 People. 50 Stories. I AM ASIAN. by Asian & Loud, Kevin Wang (Editor), and Loretta M. Cheung (Editor). The book is a collection of 50 uncensored life stories written by 50 Asian authors from around the world representing different ages, careers, and perspectives.

Eugene joined the project at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic after coming across the I AM ASIAN page on social media. He became interested in the project because he grew up around Asians who did not feel that they fit the model minority myth. Eugene believed the theme of the book, figuring out and being comfortable with our place and identity, was important to share. People with privilege often get to dictate the narrative, but this book was providing a platform for Asians around the world to share their story.

As a public defender with the Legal Aid Society, Eugene did not have the time to write his own story, so he joined the project as an editor. He was assigned a set number of authors’ stories to edit and he finished in August 2020. Speaking about the book, Eugene said, “The beauty of 50 different stories is that each story is unique. And although some stories are different from others (i.e. an Asian rapper, athletes, and growing up in foster care), there are some stories that may seem similar. However, even the ones that read similarly to others, they are still original in their own way, so there is definitely something in the book for every reader.”

Please join AABANY in congratulating Eugene on his creative work. 50 People. 50 Stories. I AM ASIAN. is available in print and electronically. To view the book on Goodreads, click here.

In The News: Fordham Law News Spotlights AABANY’s Covid Rent Relief Program

On March 9, 2021, Fordham Law News published an article spotlighting the role that Fordham Law students have played in spearheading AABANY’s Covid Rent Relief Program. Olympia Moy ‘21 and Meng Zhang ’20 kickstarted AABANY’s volunteer effort last summer, after New York State launched a rent relief program to assist residents who had lost income due to the pandemic. Concerned about low-income Chinatown-area residents, many of whom did not speak English as their first language, Moy and Zhang worked with other AABANY law students and attorneys to hold a one-day rent assistance event. On July 26, the volunteers helped 125 pre-registrants and many walk-ins navigate the challenging application process. When the state’s rent relief program opened its second round of applications in the winter, AABANY volunteers teamed up again to disseminate the program information and invite applicants to contact AABANY’s hotline for assistance. Nicholas Loh ‘22 helped lead this two-week hotline effort, connecting over 85 callers with Chinese-speaking volunteers.

The article celebrated the recognition that these students and AABANY members have received from four New York state senators. At a Lunar New Year virtual celebration in February, Sen. Brian Kavanagh awarded AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee with a certificate of commendation for providing invaluable legal assistance to the AAPI community. Looking into the future, Moy states: “We students are going to continue to try to respond as long as there are further rollouts and extensions.” To learn more about the advocacy efforts of Moy and her fellow AABANY volunteers, click here.

Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Presented with Certificate of Commendation at NYS Senators’ Lunar New Year Virtual Celebration

New York State Senators John Liu (11th District, Queens), Andrew Gounardes (22nd District, Brooklyn), Brian Kavanagh (26th District, Manhattan) and Toby Stavisky (16th District, Queens) hosted a Lunar New Year virtual celebration Tuesday evening, February 16, featuring performances from AAPI youth and community honorees. The event was well-attended by city, state and federal elected officials, as well as community leaders and their organizations.

Senator Kavanagh presented May Wong, Esq., and Olympia Moy with a certificate of commendation to recognize the work of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee in providing invaluable legal assistance to the AAPI community during the pandemic. May Wong and Olympia Moy were proud to accept the certificate on behalf of the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee. In their acceptance speech, they detailed the committee’s success in creating a one-day “in-person” clinic in July 2020 to assist tenants with paper applications for the COVID Rent Relief Program. When the COVID Rent Relief Program was extended to February 2021, law students volunteered again to establish a two-week remote hotline service to assist non-English speaking tenants apply via telephone. They were able to assist callers in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish with the help of the committee’s community partners, Chinatown CLT and GOLES. May Wong and Olympia Moy concluded their speech by expressing gratitude towards the State for its effort in addressing the State’s housing and poverty crisis and strongly encouraged the State to “direct emergency financial relief to tenants and property owners in meaningful programs that can provide permanent rental assistance and increased access to rental subsidies.”

Thank you to all the attorney volunteers and law students who helped AABANY and the community, especially May Wong, William Lee, Karen Lin, Nicholas Loh, Xinyi Shen, and Olympia Moy.

Congratulations to the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee on this well-deserved recognition! To learn more about the Committee and all its wonderful work, go to probono.aabany.org. They are always looking for more volunteers so email them at clinic.volunteer@aabany.org if you can help.

AABANY and Chinatown CLT Host Successful Rent Relief Application Virtual Phone Clinic

By Nick Loh

The Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) just concluded a virtual phone clinic to assist Mandarin and Cantonese speaking tenants in applying for the NYS Homes and Community Renewal’s (HCR) COVID Rent Relief Extension Program. This HCR program allowed NYS renters to seek a one-time rental subsidy for the months of April – July 2020. The program originally opened for submission in late July 2020, extended to August 8, 2020, and then re-opened the application process on December 18, 2020 until February 1, 2021. We assisted 83 callers in total: 87.5% of those callers had limited English proficiency, with most callers speaking Cantonese (41.1%) and Mandarin (46.4%). We handled this call volume with a dedicated team of 24 volunteers.

In response to the program’s second extension, AABANY organized a coalition to get bilingual information and resources out to the community. Articles ran in ethnic newspapers during the weekend of January 17, 2021, announcing our COVID Rent Relief Project 2.0. The goal of the project remote clinic was (1) to provide information to callers on how to apply, (2) if necessary, to have the volunteer and caller contact HCR’s Call Center together to reach an interpreter, and/or (3) to have the volunteer act as the interpreter. No legal advice or legal representation was provided.

At a time of increasing isolation due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and in the face of language access barriers for Mandarin and Cantonese speaking NYC residents, the AABANY Virtual Phone Clinic provided a welcome opportunity to build relationships in the community and provide assistance. 

AABANY would like to thank William Lee, Vice Chair of the Student Outreach Committee; May Wong, Remote Clinic Coordinator, and the Organizers of the COVID Response Law Student Team (Nicholas Loh, Xinyi Shen, and Olympia Moy). We thank the 16 law school volunteers (representing 8 different law schools) and 5 community members who made calls, waited on hold to speak to HCR, and provided this valuable assistance to the community.

AABANY would like to thank our community leaders who partnered with us in making this clinic a possibility. They include:

  • AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Services Committee –  Co-chairs – Asako Aiba, Judy Lee, Karen Lin, and Karen Kithan Yau; Remote Clinic Coordinator – May Wong
  • AABANY’s Vice Chair of the Student Outreach Committee – William Lee
  • Roxy Chang, Community Organizer of Asian American For Equality
  • Lizzie Lee, Community Liaison from NYS Senator Brian Kavanagh’s office  
  •  Damaris Reyes, Executive Director, GOLES, Inc.
  • Jacky Wong, Chinatown Community Land Trust  

Congratulations to AABANY Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Co-Chair Karen Yau for Receiving NAPABA’s 2020 Pro Bono Award

On September 3rd, 2020 the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”) announced their 2020 award winners which included Karen Kithan Yau, Of Counsel at Kakalec Law LLP and the Pro Bono and Community Service (“PBCS”) Committee Co-Chair of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”). AABANY is thrilled to have our PBCS Co-Chair recognized for her dedication and service to the community. “I am humbled to receive this honor. I could not have accomplished all that I have but for my incredible colleagues of the PBCS Committee, who are gifted lawyers dedicated to the community good,” Karen said.

Karen was recruited to co-chair the PBCS Committee in 2017 and led AABANY members in the Pro Bono Legal Advice and Referral Clinic (“the Clinic”), the PBCS Committee’s signature and ambitious project, which began two years earlier. The Clinic continues to leverage the linguistic and cultural competence available through AABANY’s diverse membership to help the large and diverse but underserved Asian American Pacific Islanders (“AAPI”) community in New York. 

Karen’s leadership and compassion have allowed the Clinic to thrive, including in its current state as a remote clinic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, the Clinic deployed 161 volunteers to serve 418 pro bono clients between 2018 and 2019, which represents a 700% growth from its inception in 2015, in 13 languages besides English. At the 2020 AABANY Annual Dinner, the Clinic received the New York State Bar Association Bar Leaders Innovation Award. “The Clinic’s success was due in no small part to Karen’s deep commitment to serving the public, amplified by vision, leadership and setting a high standard for others to follow,” said AABANY’s Executive Director Yang Chen. Since July when the remote version of the Clinic launched, close to 200 clients have received assistance. 

Karen joined Kakalec Law, an employment and civil rights law firm, after amassing legal, teaching, and professional experience in the public service, not-for-profit and private sectors, and leading legal institutions. Her decades of experience in diverse contexts have been essential to the success of both the Clinic and the Committee. 

Among her responsibilities as the PBCS Committee Co-Chair, Karen has led fundraising efforts to bring in much needed funding to augment the limited available funds from AABANY’s general budget. Karen has also participated in the clinic as a volunteer attorney, taking on several clinic consultations a week regarding employment issues. Moreover, Karen dedicated time to bring on law student Jenna Agatep, from her alma mater Northeastern University School of Law, to help with Committee projects and assist Ms. Agatep with her scholarship application for the Asian American Law Fund of New York to support her work in the Clinic.

The NAPABA Pro Bono Award recognizes an attorney or a team of attorneys for outstanding achievements in pro bono service that (1) involved impact litigation to advance or protect civil rights or (2) provided direct legal services to individuals in the furtherance of the administration of justice. The subject matter and difficulty of the case(s) or matter(s) and time expended are factors considered in selecting the award recipient.

Through her exemplary leadership at AABANY as a co-chair of the PBCS Committee and a leader of the highly impactful Clinic, Karen has gone above and beyond the criteria of this award. Her profound contributions will continue to be felt as she brings much-needed, quality legal service to the underserved in the AAPI community.

Please join AABANY in congratulating Karen Yau on her well-deserved honor. Karen will be presented with the Pro Bono Award at NAPABA’s virtual awards ceremony held in December for all of the Awards recipients. To honor Karen, NAPABA made an award video highlighting her achievements and it will be distributed on NAPABA social media channels. To view the video, please visit the link below:

Thank You to AABANY’s Remote Clinic Volunteer Attorneys and Students

To meet the continuing need of the AAPI community for assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee launched its Remote Legal Assistance Clinic this summer. Since June, Clinic attorney volunteers have received 138 calls from individuals with limited English proficiency and have assisted 116 callers from the AAPI community with their legal matters involving housing, immigration, criminal law, small business, matrimonial and family law, elder law, and trusts and estates. This would not have been possible without the dedicated volunteer attorneys, generously giving of their expertise and time, and the law students, whose multilingual assistance have been indispensable in facilitating access for our LEP community members. A special note of recognition to May Wong and Judy Lee, for spearheading the operation of the Remote Clinic, and to William Lee, for leading and mentoring the highly prolific AABANY COVID Student Task Force whose volunteers have been instrumental in publicizing the Remote Clinic and other AABANY COVID-19 Related Resources through social media platforms and door-to-door campaigns in local New York City neighborhoods.

AABANY deeply expresses its appreciation to the following volunteer attorneys:

Asako Aiba
Youngjin Choi
Rina Gurung
Thomas Hou
Eugene Kim
Karen King
Ming Chu (Judy) Lee
William Lee
Beatrice Leong
Zhixian Jessie Liu
Yan Sin
Samantha Sumilang
Ada Wang
Edmond Wong
May Wong
Siyan Joane Wong
Angela Wu
Shengyang Wu
Karen Kithan Yau

AABANY deeply expresses its appreciation to the following law student volunteers and active APALSAs:

Jenna Agatep
Nanako Arai
Justina Chen
Chao-Yung (Kloe) Chiu
Esther Choi
Jing Chu
Jeremy Chu
Long Dang
Andersen Gu
Alex Hwang
Dianna Lam
Connie Lee
Olympia Moy
Yang Ni
Anthony Park
Jenny Park
Annalee Patel
Xinyi Shen
Annie Tan
Meng Zhang

Asian Pacific American Law Student Associations at Brooklyn Law, Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, CUNY, Fordham, Harvard, Hofstra, New York Law School, New York University, Seton Hall, St. John’s.

Additional thanks to Jenna Agatep, AALFNY Pro Bono Scholar, Kwok Ng, and Karen Lin, for ongoing administrative assistance with the Remote Clinic.

NYCCHR Presents: Combatting Anti-Asian Racism in the Age of the Coronavirus (Mandarin)

On July 9, 2020, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) will be hosting a virtual panel in Mandarin titled “Combatting Anti-Asian Racism in the Age of the Coronavirus.”

The event is in collaboration with the Chinese-American Family Alliance for Mental Health and the Academy of Medical & Public Health Services.

Panelists include: Flora Ferng, Human Rights Specialist at the NYCCHR; Russel Jeung, PhD, Chair and Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University; and Kwok Kei Ng, Co-Vice Chair of the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York.

For more information, see below.