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.

Pro Bono & Community Service Committee and Government Service & Public Interest Committee Launch First Hybrid Pro Bono Clinic on Aug. 14

On August 14, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee and Government Service and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee hosted a hybrid legal clinic and provided a “Know Your Rights” presentation for residential and commercial tenants on the topic of rent arrears and evictions. The event was held at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) in Manhattan’s Chinatown and was co-sponsored by AABANY, CCBA, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York (CCCNY).

During the presentation, which was shown on Zoom and screened in-person at CCBA, Rina Gurung, an associate court attorney at the New York State Unified Court System and co-chair of the GSPI Committee; Kensing Ng, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society in East Harlem; and Meghan Liu, a Cleary Gottlieb pro bono fellow at Legal Services NYC, discussed different types of cases that are brought in housing court, such as nonpayment, holdover, and housing part cases. They also explained which eviction moratoria are in effect due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized that these laws can change at any time. This was especially relevant, given the imminent expiration of the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act on August 31, 2021; the expiration of the CDC’s moratorium on October 3, 2021; and the U.S. Supreme Court’s August 12, 2021 opinion striking down part of the New York moratorium.

Gurung, Liu, and Ng also provided resources that tenants could contact to file hardship declarations and explained the basics of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides rental arrears, temporary rental assistance, and utility arrears assistance to low- and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. They also explained that landlords seeking to sue their tenants should hire a lawyer and for those who received a marshal’s notice to go to court. In addition, the presenters explained differences in procedures for cases involving commercial tenants and provided resources for both landlords and tenants, phone numbers for free consultations for income-eligible individuals, and a guide to landlord disputes. Bei Yang, a contract attorney at On Call Counsel, interpreted the presentation live into Mandarin Chinese.

Eighteen clients attended the clinic for one-on-one legal consultations with AABANY volunteers, including 12 who had registered beforehand, one virtual caller, and five walk-ins. Topics ranged from housing and matrimonial law to immigration, fraud, medical malpractice, and personal injury. All available client consultation slots were successfully filled.

One client, an older man who only spoke Cantonese, came to the clinic because he had been scammed by a woman who claimed to be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him online. She then asked him to send her a significant sum of money, and he did so before realizing that she was a fraud. Such occurrences are not uncommon, especially among elders, and individuals who have been or who know victims of similar types of fraud should not feel ashamed to tell their stories or speak to an attorney. Sharing these stories promotes awareness of these types of scams and helps others avoid them.

While AABANY volunteers were conducting one-on-one consultations, several clients watched the presentation in the CCBA sitting area. One client asked for the PBCS email to see if she could get a recording of the presentation and re-watch it, as she missed a portion of the live presentation. She also was impressed by clips from the Anti-Asian Violence PSA that explained what hate crimes were and how they can be reported, and asked for the link to the YouTube video, even though she spoke no English. After the one-on-one consultations concluded, volunteers debriefed the clinic and got to know each other over a post-clinic meal at Canton Lounge.

The PBCS Committee thanks Rina Gurung, Kensing Ng, and Meghan Liu for lending their expertise in rent arrears, eviction moratoria, and landlord and tenant rights and Bei Yang for providing a live interpretation of the presentation. The Committee would also like to thank Beatrice Leong, Francis Chin, Guiying Ji, Jae Hyung Ryu, Judy (Ming Chu) Lee, Karen Kithan Yau, Kwok Ng, Samantha Sumilang, and Shengyang Wu for providing clients with legal information and resources during one-on-one consultations; Kloe Chiu and Esther Choi for providing language interpretation during one-on-one consultations; Luna Fu and Wai Yip from AAFE for language interpretation and other assistance; Zhixian (Jessie) Liu and Poonam Gupta for acting as standby consultants for immigration-related questions; and Asako Aiba, Karen Lin, Kevin Hsi, Kwok Ng, May Wong, Megan Gao, and Olympia Moy for coordinating and staffing the clinic.   AABANY would also like to thank CCBA, CCCNY, and AAFE for co-sponsoring this event. We are also grateful to the staff at Charles B. Wang for providing video resources on mental health and anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about the PBCS Committee and its work, click here and here. The PBCS Committee is tentatively planning to hold its next hybrid legal clinic on Saturday, September 18, 2021 between 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM. For up-to-date details about the clinic and registration information, please click here.

Congratulations to AABANY Member Shengyang Wu, on Receiving the New York Law Journal’s 2021 Rising Stars Award!

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.

AABANY Hosts its Annual Judges’ Reception on May 25 in Celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s Judiciary Committee hosted its annual Judges’ Reception on Zoom. The reception honored newly inducted, elevated and retiring judges in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. 

Will Wang, Co-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, served as Master of Ceremonies and welcomed the judges and the attendees to the virtual reception. Last year’s event did not happen, due to COVID-19, and we were pleased to be able to host judges and attendees virtually via Zoom this year.

The following elevated judges were honored:

Hon. Shahabuddeen Ally, Supervising Judge, New York City Civil Court, New York County

Hon. Katheryn S. Paek, New York City Criminal Court, New York County

The following newly elected judges were honored:

Hon. Wyatt Gibbons, New York Supreme Court, Queens County

Hon. Philip T. Hom, New York Supreme Court, Queens County

Hon. Leigh K. Cheng, New York City Civil Court, Queens County

Hon. Hyun Chin Kim, County Court, Orange County

Hon. E. Grace Park, New York City Civil Court, New York County

Hon. Meredith Vacca, County Court, Monroe County 

Hon. John Z. Wang, New York City Civil Court, New York County

The following newly appointed judges were honored:

Hon. James R. Cho, United States Magistrate Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

Hon. Diane Gujarati, United States District Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

The reception also recognized and honored two judges who had retired from the bench:

Hon. Peter Tom, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department

Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Term, First Department

The honorees recognized at the event are trailblazers for Asian Americans in the judiciary. Of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, Asians remain the least represented group in positions within the judiciary. Although Asians make up around 6% of the United States population, in 2020, they comprised less than 3% of federal judges. In the state of New York, although Asians make up 9% of the population, Asians represent a mere 2% of state judges. That number raises even more concern when we consider that Asians account for some 14% of the population in New York City, and Manhattan’s Chinatown is literally right around the corner from State and Federal courthouses. In light of current events and the rise in anti-Asian violence, AAPI representation on the bench is more important than ever. AABANY thanks the honorees for their pioneering example.

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, the Judiciary Committee also held a short trivia game where participants would answer questions about the history of Asian American Pacific Islanders in the United States. Questions included: What was the purpose of the Chinese Exclusion Act? Which President signed the joint resolution commemorating APA Heritage Month? What was the reason for boycotting Miss Saigon on Broadway? The winners, who each answered nine out of the ten questions correctly, were Joseb Gim, AABANY Prosecutors’ Committee Co-Chair; L. Austin D’Souza, AABANY Judiciary Committee member and SABANY President-Elect; and the Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan, an AABANY Founding Board Member and the AABANY Trailblazer Award honoree from the 2020 Fall Conference. The winners received buttons which had been created to raise funds for AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic, inscribed with the words “One Humanity against the Virus.”

Congratulations to all the judges who were recognized and honored at this year’s Judges’ Reception, and thanks to everyone who joined us for this event. 

To learn more about AABANY’s Judiciary Committee and its work, click here.

Please Join AALFNY and AABANY for the 2021 Public Interest Scholarship Summer Reception

Please join us for the AABANY/AALFNY virtual Summer Reception to be held on zoom from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday June 25, 2021. 

Please RSVP at https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1420369

The Reception is the main fundraising event of the Asian American Law Fund of NY and provides funding for our projects which include, among others, our Public Interest Scholarships, the Turning the Tide Project and the AABANY Pro Bono Clinic.

While not a requirement for attendance at the event, we would be delighted if you or your firm would demonstrate support of the Fund by making a donation. The donation would be acknowledged on the Fund’s website. The various contribution levels are detailed below.  The Fund is a 501(c) (3) entity and contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by applicable law.

Feel free to circulate this announcement to any interested lawyers and law students. There is no charge for attendance.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Contribution Levels

Diamond …………………………………………………….……$1000

Gold ………..……………………………………………………….$750

Silver ……………………………………………………………….$500

The Asian American Law Fund of New York awards Public Interest Scholarships each year to law students with a demonstrated commitment to the Asian American community. The purpose of the award is to assist law students with their tuition while encouraging them to use their legal knowledge and training to benefit the Asian American community in New York and to foster commitment by law students to public service to the Asian American community in New York.  Since 1997, AALFNY has funded more than 60 public interest scholarships to law students.

This year’s recipients were Amanda Jimenez, Evelyn (Meng) Lin, and Shelley Wu. In addition, Dawa Lhamo was the recipient of the AALFNY-SABANY Public Interest Fellowship.

The Asian American Law Fund of New York was established in 1993 by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) to create and support non-profit and charitable efforts to eliminate prejudice and discrimination and to defend human and civil rights.

Donations to AALFNY may be made at asianamericanlawfund.org/donate or by check to AALFNY, PO Box 161, 41 Purdy Ave., Rye NY 10580. A copy of our latest annual report may be obtained from us at the above address or from the NY Attorney General’s Charities Bureau website www.charitiesnys.com. Information may also be obtained from us at donations@AsianAmericanLawFund.org or the NYS Attorney General at 212-416-8686.

Pro Bono & Community Service Committee Hosts Elder Law Clinic and Presentation

On May 4, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service Committee (PBCS) hosted a virtual law clinic and presentation on elder law as a part of the Virtual Community Presentation Series. The event was co-sponsored by AABANY, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York.

In light of the instability brought about by the pandemic, the new changes to the Medicaid laws, and the surge in anti-Asian violence, Committee Vice-Chair May Wong moderated the event to address the questions and concerns of the Chinese community, as well as to provide free legal consultations on these topics. May was joined by Karen Eng, specializing in estate planning, administration, elder law, Article 81 guardianship, and residential real estate at Thomas J. Manzi, P.C., and Pauline Yeung-Ha, Partner at Grimaldi & Yeung, LLP specializing in trusts, wills and estates, elder law, and special needs planning. Also present were Co-Chairs Judy Lee, Karen Lin, and Kwok Ng.

Karen Eng presented information on advance directives, wills, and trusts, while Pauline spoke on the new Medicaid changes and the effects the changes would have on individual healthcare. Both Karen Eng and Pauline emphasized the importance of advance preparation in matters of healthcare and estate planning. Kwok translated the speakers consecutively into Cantonese and Mandarin and also presented information on hate crimes and resources for reporting incidents. 31 individuals attended the event. At the presentation’s end, PBCS, along with Karen Eng and Pauline, opened the virtual free services clinic for two client consultations. The CCBA provided their physical headquarters for the two clients to meet remotely with the attorneys.

The PCBS Committee thanks Karen Eng and Pauline Yeung-Ha for offering their expertise in elder law to give back to the Chinese community. PBCS would also like to thank Annalee Patel, Bei Yang, Chao-Yung Chiu, Jian Cui, Julie Choe, Kelly Tang, and Xinyi Shen for their help and support in organizing the event. AABANY would also like to thank the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and the New York Chinese Chamber of Commerce for co-sponsoring this event. To watch the presentation, click here. To learn more about the Pro Bono & Community Service Committee and its work, click here and click here.

One Case, Many Takeaways: Bei Yang’s Experience with AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic

By Bei Yang

As an out-of-state law graduate from Tennessee, I was not familiar with any specific New York practice rules. While waiting for my bar exam results and preparing for my legal career in New York, and with the encouragement of my mentor Mr. Rocky Chin, I participated in the AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic. The Clinic provides legal information and referrals to individuals, particularly those with limited English proficiency, with legal issues such as immigration, housing, employment, family, elder law, anti-Asian violence, and those pertaining to small businesses.

After registration, I received an email with a list of cases that was sent to all volunteers. Volunteers can choose to take on one or more cases based on interests or experience, and if you are not licensed or not experienced in a specific area, the Clinic partners you with a more experienced attorney to remotely shadow and learn from. Since I have not yet been admitted and this was my first time volunteering, I decided to shadow Ms. May Wong, an experienced volunteer attorney, on a contract law case.

Before making a callback, Ms. Wong and I knew that our client only spoke Mandarin and had been recently served with a Summons. With this limited information at hand, we discussed the legal matters that we needed to inform the client of. These matters included the risk of a default judgment if the clinic client did not respond to the service in a timely fashion (CPLR §3215: default judgment), the possible defenses the client might take, like defects in the service of process (§CPLR 308: Methods of personal service upon a natural person), and the statute of limitations (CPLR §213(2): 6 years for a breach of contract claim in New York). Ms. Wong then patiently went over the normal calling process and basic civil procedure in New York with me. Only after making sure that I did not have any more questions and was comfortable to make the call, she started our three-way phone call with the clinic client.

On the call, we explained our limited roles and asked the client to elaborate on the facts of his case. While acting as a language interpreter, I was able to ask the caller questions about his case to narrow down the issues, thus gaining useful intake skills. I learned that this case was about a family business dispute worth $25,000. The caller was not represented by an attorney and we strongly encouraged him to engage one rather than risking a default judgment, which is enforceable for 20 years and would cost him more money to vacate.

Not only did the client receive useful legal information regarding his case, but he also felt like his voice was finally heard. Volunteering with the pro bono clinic was a great experience, as I was able to learn so much about New York civil procedure rules and gain a lot of important legal experience from just one case. I look forward to continuing my volunteering experience to become an advocate to help those with limited resources and language skills.

To volunteer for the Remote Pro Bono Clinic, please email: clinic.volunteer@aabany.org.

For more information about AABANY Pro Bono Resources, please visit: https://probono.aabany.org/

Thank You to Our AABANY Student Leaders

AABANY recognizes and thanks its Student Leaders for all their assistance this summer in fighting COVID-19 and giving back to the Asian American community in New York. Our AABANY student leaders are:

Taiyee Chien, UChicago Law

Long Dang, Columbia Law

Alex Hwang, Cardozo Law

Dianna Lam, Fordham Law

Connie J. Lee, Columbia Law

H. Anthony Park, Ottawa Law

Jenny Park, Columbia Law

Xinyi Shen, Cardozo Law

Sejal Waghray, Emory University

Meng Zhang, Fordham Law

The flyer above contains short descriptions about why each AABANY Student Leader wants to give back and how they have been doing it, such as by volunteering at AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic or participating in various COVID-19 relief activities and programs over the summer.

Please join us in thanking all our AABANY Student Leaders. We also recognize and thank Will Lee, Vice Chair of the Student Outreach Committee, for his leadership in bringing together our Student Leaders and helping AABANY channel their talents and energy to benefit the New York Asian American community.

Pro Bono Committee & AABANY Volunteers Promote New Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown

On Friday, July 3, 2020, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) launched a flyering campaign to promote the new Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown. The event was organized by William Lee, Associate at Alston & Bird and an active member of the Pro Bono Committee. The goal of the campaign was to ensure that Asian American small businesses had access to the Pro Bono Clinic’s various resources during this time of great need. Many law students from local APALSAs, including Fordham, Cardozo, and Columbia, volunteered at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend to assist in distributing the flyers to local businesses.

The Chinatown volunteers were led by Dianna Lam and May Wong, frequent volunteers for the Pro Bono Clinic, and those in Koreatown were led by Will Lee. Both campaigns were very successful, and Dianna Lam and May Wong were even interviewed for the “Around the Boroughs” segment of Spectrum News NY1. Dianna and May emphasized the importance of the Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic, especially for smaller businesses impacted by COVID-19. Both groups ended the day with a volunteer appreciation lunch at the West New Malaysian Restaurant on Bowery Street. The group was able to sit at tables set up outside the restaurant, spaced out so that they could maintain a social distance.

We thank the Pro Bono Committee members, including Will Lee, Dianna Lam, and May Wong, for their leadership during this campaign. We also thank the students and volunteers who took the time to help the Remote Clinic reach more individuals and businesses in need of legal information. The Pro Bono Committee will be organizing similar campaigns in Flushing, Queens and Bay Ridge, so if you are interested in volunteering, please add your name to this document. Read AABANY’s press release about the Remote Pro Bono Clinic here. For more information on the Pro Bono Committee, see https://www.aabany.org/page/117. To find out more about AABANY’s pro bono resources, visit aabany.org/probono.

AABANY Publishes Flyer with COVID-19 Legal Relief Resources

On June 16, AABANY published a flyer with a comprehensive list of digital resources for those seeking legal relief arising out of COVID-19 related issues.

The flier provides links for resources in multiple areas, including Small Business Labor and Employment, Restructuring and Bankruptcy, and other pages listing more general information, such as knowing your rights if you encounter anti-Asian racism or harassment and frequently asked questions.

Many of the resources are available in other languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese.

Click on the image above to access the flyer as a PDF, which includes embedded links to the resources mentioned above.