On August 5th, 2023, AABANY held its Brooklyn Pro Bono Legal Clinic at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) Brooklyn Community Services Center. The clinic met with 25 clients, coming in with questions about housing, immigration, and family law issues. Volunteer attorneys and interpreters patiently addressed client concerns, answering questions and connecting them to lawyers through AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service (LRIS).
We thank the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee and the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) for organizing and hosting the event. Established in 1965, CPC is a social services organization dedicated to helping Asian American, immigrant, and economically disadvantaged communities within New York City to obtain equitable access to essential resources and opportunities, thus fostering Asian American success.
The next Pro Bono Clinic will be on September 6th, from 6:30pm – 8:30pm, and located at AAFE One Flushing Community Center, 133-29 41st Ave 2nd Floor, Queens, NY 11355. You can sign up here to volunteer. To add the date and time for this clinic to your calendar, click here. For upcoming clinics, please check AABANY’s calendar and update your email preference in your account to receive our emails.
Thank you to our volunteers for supporting the clinic. Your time and dedication is essential for delivering crucial assistance to individuals seeking legal guidance. We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to:
Amber Lee Ashley Shan Gary Yeung Kwok Kei Ng May Wong
Interpreters and Observers:
I-Kai Lee Jihyon Kim Ruo Yang Yini Lai
To learn more about the Pro Bono & Community Service Committee, click here.
On July 15th, 2023, AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) and Immigration Law Committees participated in Immigrant Resource Day, a community event aimed at promoting services for New York immigrants, including those who are newly-arrived in the country. Held in Herald Gospel Plaza in Flushing, nearly twenty New York City government departments and various community organizations came together under the banner of the Chinese Christian Herald Crusades.
The event attracted hundreds of attendees of various backgrounds, coming in for immigration information, legal consultation, social welfare programs, and to apply for the New York Resident Card (IDNYC). At the event, PBCS Committee Co-Chairs, Kwok Ng and Lina Lee, and Vice Chair May Wong, managed the Pro Bono Legal Clinic at the event. At the clinic, AABANY volunteer attorneys generously volunteered their time and expertise to offer guidance, advice, and support to those seeking legal assistance.
The event surpassed all expectations in terms of the number of individuals served in a single day. With 56 registered participants seeking advice, AABANY was able to successfully assist 28 families facing challenging situations. We are immensely grateful for the overwhelming support and dedication shown by the volunteers who participated in the event. The tireless efforts of our team, consisting of fourteen AABANY attorneys, four AABANY non-attorneys, and three staff members from Asian American for Equality (AAFE), our community partner, contributed to the overall success of the day.
Furthermore, the Co-Chairs of the Immigration Law Committee, Zhixian (Jessie) Liu and Susan Song, invited former Co-Chair Tsui H. Yee to present a workshop about asylum and immigrant rights. Ms. Yee, an immigration lawyer with over 20 years of experience, discussed the process of applying for asylum, requirements for qualification, the timeline of the application process, and answered questions posed by the audience. Overall, the workshop not only provided valuable insights into the asylum application process, but also gave attendees a platform to receive expert guidance from an experienced legal professional.
The fair also highlighted the urgent need for immigration attorneys that can provide crucial assistance to Chinese migrants and asylum seekers that have arrived at the US-Mexico border in recent months. AABANY lawyers were able to interact with many individuals seeking assistance with asylum and deportation-related matters, who were influenced by misleading information on social media platforms, exploited by unscrupulous agents, or left without legal representation. The Immigration Law Committee hopes to establish a comprehensive network of trusted referrals and legal support for this community, enlisting the help of attorneys on a pro bono basis, through paid representation, or for collaboration in future workshops.
Thank you to the PBCS and Immigration Law Committees for organizing this event. Furthermore, we extend our gratitude to Jessie Liu and Susan Song, the Co-Chairs of the Immigration Law Committee, for their exceptional efforts in conducting the workshop alongside Tsui H. Yee. We appreciate their dedication in assisting clients with immigration issues, even taking on back-to-back cases to address clients’ pressing concerns. We thank Tsui for sharing her valuable legal expertise during the workshop and for generously addressing the concerns of clients even after its conclusion. Her contributions helped drive the success of the event. In addition, we thank our partner organizations, the Chinese Christian Herald Crusades (CCHC), and AAFE.
Last but not least, thank you to the dedicated volunteers that made the Pro Bono Clinic at Immigration Resource Day a success:
Kwok Kei Ng
Shengyang (John) Wu
Zhixian (Jessie) Liu
Interpreters & Shadowers:
Nuala Naranja (AAFE)
Elton Ye (AAFE)
Xiaodong Zhang (AAFE)
If you have expertise in asylum and deportation matters, or you know someone who does, please reach out to the Immigration Law Committee co-chairs, Zhixian Liu or Susan Song, and help AABANY establish a network of trusted referrals for newly arrived immigrants.
You can also help out by keeping an eye out for future Pro Bono Clinics here, and registering as a volunteer. Click here to view the calendar entry for the next Pro Bono Clinic on August 16th, and fill out the registration form here. Please register as a volunteer by 12pm, August 11th, 2023.
On Wednesday, July 19th, 2023, AABANY hosted a highly successful Manhattan Pro Bono Legal Clinic at the AAFE (Asian American for Equality) Community Center, at 111 Norfolk Street, where compassionate volunteers offered their time and expertise to provide invaluable free legal services to the community. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, AAFE, our community partners, and our dedicated volunteers! Throughout the evening, we had the privilege of meeting with 22 clients, engaging in discussions of various legal issues, including immigration, housing, and family law. This was a vast increase from last month’s clinic when we had 8 clients.
In partnership with AAFE Community Center and other community partners, we recognize that the success of the Pro Bono Clinic would not be possible without our volunteers’ unwavering dedication to serving the community. By offering services in both Mandarin and Cantonese, we aim to continue to provide support for those who may face linguistic or cultural barriers when seeking access to legal services. Together, we continue to make a difference in the lives of our community members.
Pang-Mei (P.M.) Natasha Chang
Menglong (Anthony) Zhu
Interpreters and Shadowers:
MengXi (Claire) Xiong
Doh Yun (John)
Thanks to all the volunteers, AAFE, community partners, and PBCS Committee who made this Pro Bono Clinic possible. Please join the next Manhattan Pro Bono Clinic taking place on August 16th at AAFE Community Center. To volunteer, please register here by August 11th. For more information, please click here.
On June 21st, 2023, AABANY held its Manhattan Pro Bono Legal Clinic at AAFE (Asian Americans for Equality) Community Center where dedicated volunteers came together to provide free legal services to the community. Thank you to the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, AAFE, our community partners, and our volunteers! We met with 8 clients and discussed issues relating to immigration, housing, and contracts.
In partnership with AAFE Community Center and other community partners, the Pro Bono Clinic would not be possible without the volunteers’ dedication to serving all members of the community, in both Mandarin and Cantonese. It provides indispensable support to those who may face linguistic or cultural barriers in attempting to gain access to legal services.
The next Manhattan clinic will be on July 19th located at AAFE Community Center, 111 Norfolk Street, NY, NY 10002. You can sign up here to volunteer for our next Pro Bono clinic. For upcoming clinics, please check AABANY’s calendar and update your email preference in your account to receive our emails.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to the volunteers who made this Pro Bono Clinic a success:
On October 21, 2022, Adhikaar, a community organization for New York’s Nepali-speaking community, hosted its sold-out Fall Utsav at the Queens Museum. Rina Gurung, Board Chair of Adhikaar (and one of the co-chairs of AABANY’s Government Services and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee), opened the ceremony by thanking the Adhikaar Board and its staff for spearheading a wonderful organization that empowers the Nepali-speaking community by addressing social rights, workers’ rights, and women’s rights. Gurung also gave a shout-out to her work colleagues and AABANY.
Kevin Hsi, co-chair of GSPI, and May Wong, co-chair of the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, were also in attendance at Fall Utsav to support Rina and Adhikaar. AABANY’s GSPI and PBCS Committees wish the best to Pabitra Khati Benjamin, Executive Director of Adhikaar, who steps down from her leadership role at the end of October.
Moving forward, PBCS hopes to bridge a partnership with Adhikaar to secure Nepali-speaking clients for PBCS upcoming legal clinics! For more information about AABANY’s PBCS, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other news, AABANY’s ties with other Asian American community organizations are as strong as ever. AABANY member and Prosecutors Committee co-founder Kin Ng attended the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn’s (UCA) 20th Anniversary Gala to accept the Community Leader of the Year Award. PBCS partners with UCA to host its pro bono clinics. Register for the December 10th Brooklyn PBCS pro bono clinic here. Read more about AABANY members celebrating with Kin at the UCA Gala here.
Next event coming up that supports AAPI Community-Based Organizations: 11/17 – MinKwon hosting its Virtual Anniversary Gala with NAKASEC
PBCS was extremely active in April! We ran the pro bono clinic in Manhattan for the first time this year on April 9, 2022. We couldn’t have run our clinics without the dedicated help from AABANY, the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York (CCCNY), and volunteers. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to all volunteers for participating!
Thank you to all the following volunteers:
Teresa Wai Yee Yeung^
Karen Kithan Yau
Kelly Tang (CCCNY)^
Kwok Kei Ng
Min Jung Esther Choi
^ = non-attorney volunteer
On April 9, we met with 17 clients – 3 spoke English and 14 spoke a second language (i.e., Mandarin or Cantonese). Many clients had mostly housing-related questions, as housing has always been a popular issue given the lack of resources and information available.
In fact, many legal services have stopped taking cases due to the shortage of staffing and heavy workloads. Unfortunately, due to space issues, we too will be suspending our Manhattan clinics until further notice.
However, we are continuing the Queens Pro Bono Clinics. In fact, on April 23, we had 14 AABANY volunteers present at our pro bono clinic! These volunteers assisted 13 clients who had questions related to immigration, torts, wills, trusts and estates, and referrals.
Karen Lin, an AABANY member since 2019, is a candidate for Judge of the Civil Court in Queens. A dedicated public servant, Karen currently serves as court attorney-referee in Kings County Surrogate’s Court. A former Committee Co-Chair for AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, she led the creation of the Queens Pro Bono Clinic in 2020 and subsequently the Remote Legal Clinic. Now, she hopes to serve her community in a new capacity by becoming the first East Asian female judge elected in Queens.
A Lifelong New Yorker
Karen was raised in Flushing and northeast Queens by immigrant parents and continues to call Queens home today. A student of the New York City public school system, she attended the selective Hunter College High School and later the Bronx High School of Science. She attended college at the State University of New York at Buffalo before returning to New York City to pursue her law degree at Brooklyn Law School.
Motivated to be an advocate for everyday people, Karen began her career as a civil rights and family law attorney at a small firm. She represented families in New York City Family Court and State Supreme Court. She subsequently left for an opportunity to work in the legislative office of New York State Senator Catherine Abate of the 27th District, covering lower and midtown Manhattan. There, as District Counsel and later Chief of Staff, she advocated for constituents in neighborhoods that included Chinatown and the Garment District. The experience gave Karen new insight into the needs of New Yorkers on issues such as affordable housing, fair wages, and labor rights.
Making the Courts Accessible to Everyone
When Senator Abate gave up her seat to run for Attorney General, Karen returned to the courtroom, this time as a court attorney. Working as a neutral arbiter refined her ability to resolve disputes, facilitate dialogue, and practice empathy. Her commitment to justice was well-recognized by her colleagues, as she was subsequently appointed judge of the New York City Housing Court. “Housing court is the last stop before you’re homeless,” Karen reflects, “[yet] the playing field is so unlevel.” She was humbled by this opportunity. Having advocated for underserved communities for decades, Karen was committed to resolving the disputes before her with full understanding from both parties.
The bench was Karen’s dream position as a public servant. As a judge, she worked hard to ensure that each person who appeared before her had a meaningful opportunity to be heard. But with a growing family, she decided to step off the bench to care for her three young children. She returned to the courtroom in 2013 as a court attorney-referee in Surrogate’s Court, the position she continues to hold today. She assists grieving families who face difficult conversations following the loss of a loved one. Care and compassion are pillars to Karen’s work: “If you care about people, you’ll care about their problems and see people as people instead of cases to go through,” she explains.
Changing the Air in the Room
Now that her children are older, Karen hopes to deliver justice again through the bench. She believes that “a good judge knows the law, understands and applies it. A great judge does that and cares about people.” As the daughter of immigrants, a working mother and a lifelong public servant to disadvantaged communities, Karen stresses the need for diverse judges who are attuned to their constituents’ backgrounds. In Queens, where Karen is running, Asians are among the most underrepresented groups in the judiciary. According to the Special Advisor Report on New York State Courts, around 9 percent of Queens judges are Asian although the most recent Queens census reports that Asians constitute 27 percent of the population.
“The air in the room changes depending on who is in it,” Karen says. She hopes that her campaign will inspire other candidates from underrepresented backgrounds to run for the bench. “As lawyers, [running for the judiciary] is not on our radar…yet invisibility changes when we call it out, when there are more of us who are not silent.” As judge, she is committed to continue serving everyday families and to ensure they are treated with dignity throughout the process.
For more information about Karen Lin’s campaign, including how you can volunteer or support her candidacy, please visit https://www.karenlin2022.com/.
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.
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.
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.