Congratulations to AABANY Student Outreach Committee Co-Chair William Lee on Being Honored as Mayer Brown’s Pro Bono Associate of the Year

The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates William Lee on being honored as Mayer Brown’s Pro Bono Associate of the Year on July 12, 2022. Mayer Brown is an international law firm specializing in the global financial services industry with approximately 200 lawyers in each of the world’s three largest financial centers: New York, London and Hong Kong. William was the sole “Pro Bono Associate of the Year” of the Americas out of three international recipients.

William has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. His experience includes volunteering for AABANY’s pro bono clinic, overseeing Columbia Law School’s Pro Bono Caravan, and supervising a postering campaign to provide AAPI neighborhoods in New York with COVID relief information. He is also Co-Chair of the AABANY Student Outreach Committee.

William, an associate in Banking & Finance, emphasized the importance of pro bono work during these trying times. To William, pro bono work means urgency. He noted how right now is the most important time to engage in pro bono, and if we do not fight, nothing will ever change.

William spoke about his experience with AABANY: “Before COVID, I wasn’t really involved with AABANY. I got involved by raising my hand to help the pro bono clinic as a translator. I’m not smarter or more qualified than anyone else in any other way. All I did was raise my hand, continue to say yes, and always try to do the right thing. A lot of law firm associates think they have no time to do pro bono, but I am a walking example that you can do both.”

How does he make time for Pro Bono work as a BigLaw associate? William highlighted the importance of time management: “Sometimes, you have to sacrifice an hour with family or while on vacation for a meeting, but it is worth it in the end.”

William said that while this award was completely unexpected, he is extremely grateful for this honor. He also emphasized that this award is a big win for AABANY.

Please join AABANY in congratulating William Lee on being honored as Mayer Brown’s Pro Bono Associate of the Year!

Member Profile: Karen King Wins Unanimous Victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in Domestic Violence and International Custody Dispute Case

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On March 22, 2022, AABANY member Karen King argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Saada (20-1034), a case involving the interpretation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. Karen is a Partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, and an active member of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force. She sat down with AABANY to share reflections on the oral argument, diversity among litigators, and the importance of pro bono work. 

Looking back, the law was a natural career choice for Karen.  She was president of the debate team in high school as well as at Yale University, where she majored in philosophy and political science.  After receiving her J.D. from Harvard Law School, she moved to New York and began her career at Cravath.  Two decades later, she appears regularly in federal and state courts on behalf of corporate clients, she was named a “Notable Woman in Law” by Crain’s New York Business, and she received both the Federal Bar Council’s Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)’s Pro Bono award.  Her pro bono clients include victims of discrimination, survivors of domestic violence, students with learning disabilities, victims of gun violence, and prisoners on civil rights issues. 

Karen’s impressive career reached another milestone this year when she had her first argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Saada . She represents Narkis Golan, an American citizen and survivor of domestic violence, and mother to a young child who was born in Italy.  The case has been pending for nearly four years and was accepted by the Supreme Court for argument last December to resolve a circuit split on whether district courts are required to consider ameliorative measures to facilitate return of a child to a foreign country, even after finding that return would subject the child to a “grave risk” of exposure to harm.

During oral argument, the justices were active in their questioning and seemed interested in how best to address situations where the grave risk is sourced to a complex problem like domestic violence.  “Am I correct that the vast majority of these grave risk cases are ones involving domestic violence?” asked Justice Barrett, who continued to say: “It just seems to me that that’s a much different case for ameliorative measures than, say, the nuclear plant next door that the Chief posited at the outset.  That would be a pretty straightforward move, and then there would be no more grave risk, whereas I think you get into the complexity of the financial support payments and the undertaking or restraining order, however it should be categorized, in these domestic abuse cases that pose maybe a unique circumstance?”  The recording of oral argument is available here

When asked whether she expected at the outset that this case would reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Karen replied that she did not. She added that, at the start of the case in 2018, “we were hopeful that it would end at the trial level.” But despite establishing, by clear and convincing evidence, that return to Italy would expose the child to a grave risk of harm, the case went back and forth to the Second Circuit on the question of appropriate ameliorative measures.  Ultimately, Karen and the team came to believe that the interpretation of the Hague Convention set forth by the Second Circuit required review by the Supreme Court.  Despite the extraordinarily slim odds of having a case accepted for argument, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to weigh in on the cert petition and ultimately granted cert. 

Arguing before the Supreme Court is the dream of many litigators. Karen prepared through “lots of moots [i.e., practice sessions], testing answers to every conceivable question we could think of, and reflection and discussion of the issues with colleagues, co-counsel, and pretty much anyone willing to talk about it.” In terms of approach to oral argument, she felt she needed to get straight to the point and anticipate challenging questions from the Justices about the key legal issues. Although the preparation process was similar to what she has done for other appellate arguments, it was clearly “more nerve-wracking, more high profile, and more work.”  She credits having an amazing team supporting her at Morvillo, the incredible work of the Paul, Weiss team (her former firm and co-counsel throughout the case), and the lawyers at the Zashin firm (co-counsel at the Supreme Court merits stage).  Although the oral argument was in person, it was not open to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions.  Karen was accompanied only by co-counsel Dan Levi from Paul, Weiss on the big day.  

At the Supreme Court argument, the Solicitor General’s office was represented by Frederick Liu, and the Respondent Jacky Saada was represented by Richard Min, a family law attorney in New York.  It is believed that this was the first time all three advocates arguing a case before the Supreme Court were of AAPI descent. This is a remarkable moment for the AAPI community, and for AAPI litigators.  Karen recognizes that it was important to “push [herself] to create the moment” and not to “be intimidated by milestones.” 

Karen is a strong advocate for diversity in the courtroom and in law firms.  She advises young litigators to strengthen their courtroom skills and give back to the community through pro bono work.  Karen has been recognized for her pro bono commitment over the years and generally works on one or two ongoing pro bono matters on top of her regular workload. Reflecting on her career thus far, Karen sees her persistence, optimism, and creative thinking, as survival skills that have led to great opportunities.  “You just have to push through… . Keep you head up and keep moving toward your goals.  Don’t let the machine crush you.” 

Oral argument in Golan v. Saada (20-1034) by Todd Crespi

Karen King, Richard Min, and Fred Liu, who argued Golan v. Saada (20-1034)

In the News: Jennifer Wu and Lawrence Wee Featured by Bloomberg Law for Anti-Asian Violence Work

On June 10, 2022 AABANY Women’s Committee Co-Chair and AABANY Anti-Asian Violence Task Force member Jennifer Wu and AABANY Board Director Lawrence (“Larry”) Wee were recognized by Bloomberg Law in an article entitled “Why Paul Weiss Is the Pro Bono Go-To for Victims of Asian Hate.” Jennifer and Larry, both partners at Paul, Weiss, have represented some of the most high profile cases, including the families of GuiYing Ma, a grandmother who died after being bashed with a rock; Yao Pan Ma, an elderly man who was struck and kicked to death while collecting cans; and Zhiwen Yan, a deliveryman who was shot to death. 

Jennifer and Larry spearhead their firm’s pro bono work fighting anti-Asian hate. They cite their close ties to New York’s Asian community as a reason for their work. Larry is a preacher at a church in Chinatown and Jennifer’s husband, Andy Woo, is a community organizer in Chinatown. Jennifer and Larry feel an urgent sense of responsibility to fight hate against the Asian community. Their urgency is well supported by AABANY’s second anti-Asian violence report, Endless Tide: The Continuing Struggle to Overcome Anti-Asian Hate in New York, which shows an increase in incidents despite media attention and calls by elected officials for change on the issue. (Paul, Weiss attorneys assisted in editing and drafting the Endless Tide report.)

Gaining the trust of victims and their families is not easy and requires great cultural sensitivity. “Often, they don’t trust people with money, and they’re worried that you’re in cahoots with authorities,” Jennifer said. She meets her clients in noodle shops in Queens rather than Paul, Weiss’ Manhattan office. Jennifer and Larry, both Chinese speakers, are the most visible members of Paul, Weiss’ fight against anti-Asian hate. They are grateful for the many additional partners, including Loretta Lynch, Jeannie Rhee, and Alan Halperin, who have been essential to the effort. 

AABANY congratulates Jennifer and Larry on their well-deserved recognition. To read the full article, please click here

AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service Committee form The Pelican Brief team for the Bronx Zoo’s 5k, Run for the Wild

On Saturday, April 30, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service Committee formed The Pelican Brief team for the Bronx Zoo’s Run for the Wild, a 5K Run and 3K Family Fun Run/Walk. This year, Run for the Wild is inspired by the beloved and endangered hornbills. The Pelican Brief ran, walked, or crawled to improve their well-being and mental health. The Pelican Brief team was happy to participate and support this great cause, and to network with each other in the process.

AABANY members Kevin Hsi, Thomas Hou, Nelson Mar, and May Wong showed up at 7am to show their support. In first place was Thomas Hou who finished the 5k at 9:06am. In second place was Nelson Mar who ran with a pulled hamstring, with his newborn Esperanza cheering him on from her stroller. Co-chairs, Kevin Hsi of the Government & Public Service Committee, and May Wong of the Pro Bono & Community Service Committee finished around late 9am.

Congratulations to The Pelican Brief who placed 19th out of the top 100 teams and raised $1,085 to support the hornbills! And congratulations to Thomas Hou, who placed 20th out of the top 100 participants and raised $890!

Please join the Pro Bono & Community Service Committee at our next event, the Queens Pro Bono Legal Clinic on Saturday, June 25. At these pro bono clinics, attorneys and staff provide free 30-minute legal information and referral sessions to limited English proficient (LEP) clients who speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and/or Spanish, in matters relating to housing, family, consumer debt, estates, and immigration matters.

For more information and to register, please visit https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1632287. For more information, please contact PBCS at probono@aabany.org.

Thank You to Our April Pro Bono Clinic Volunteers!

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:

Francis ChinAaron Fong^
Jackson ChinTeresa Wai Yee Yeung^
Karen Kithan YauYvette Adiguzel^
Kelly Tang (CCCNY)^Kwok Kei Ng
Min Jung Esther ChoiMay Wong
^ = 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. 

Thank you to all the following volunteers:

Beatrice LeongJackson Chin*
Eugene KimAmanda Yang^*
Haoxu LiKwok Ng
Jennifer ParkJohnny Thach
May WongRuihan (Yvette) Wang
Justina Chen^Meng Zhang
Yewei “Alex” Feng^*Kevin Hsi
^=non-attorney volunteers
*=attended remotely

Please feel free to volunteer with us at Flushing, Queens by signing up at this link [https://airtable.com/shrsLuv7MQN8Gtc0B]. We hope to see you there!

Our next clinic dates are –  

6/25/2022, 12:30pm – 3:30pm [deadline to register 6/22/2022, 12pm]

7/23/2022, 12:30pm – 3:30pm [deadline to register 7/20/2022, 12pm]

To learn more about the Pro Bono Committee and what they do visit probono.aabany.org.

Thank You to Our March Queens Pro Bono Clinic Volunteers!

On March 26, 2022, the Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee held its Pro Bono Clinic in Flushing, Queens at the offices of the Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE). We couldn’t have run our clinics without the dedicated help from AABANY, the PBCS Committee, AAFE, and volunteers. We are extremely grateful for our volunteers who traveled all the way from Manhattan and Brooklyn during the torrential rain and MTA’s weekend schedule to meet with clients who needed legal assistance.

Thank you to all the following volunteers:

Ashley ShanAshley Han^
Beatrice LeongMeng Zhang
*Karen Lin (on-call)*Phillip Pang*^
Eugene KimXinyi Shen*^
Johnny ThachAndrew Chang*^
May WongVivian Lee*^
Ruihan (Yvette) WangJennifer Park (not admitted)
Shengyang WuZulma Vazquez (AAFE)^
Evelyn Gong*Chen Yo (AAFE)^
Judy (Ming Chu) Lee*Yini Fang (AAFE)^
Thomas RileyMaria del Carmen Cruz (AAFE)^
Tong WuGabriel Hisugan (AAFE)^
Wen-Hsien (Wendy) Cheng 
  
^ = non-attorney volunteers 
* = remote 

On March 26, we met with 14 clients – 3 spoke English and 11 spoke a second language (ie: Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, or Korean). While a majority of the cases related to housing, we had a few cases involving torts, trusts and estates, family law, and immigration law. 

One noteworthy case highlighted the point that not all matters need to be resolved through the courts. One of our volunteers was able to direct an individual who had a problem with a store purchase to seek recourse through filing complaints with NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, Better Business Bureau, or maybe even the media: 

This was a great “think-out-of-the-box” approach and allowed the individual to consider other cost-effective options. Great job to everyone!

We hope to see more volunteers at our next clinic on May 14, 2022.  Please sign up by May 11 at: https://airtable.com/shrsLuv7MQN8Gtc0B

Thank you, 

PBCS Team

Pro Bono and Community Service Committee’s Pro Bono Clinic Serves Numerous Flushing Community Members on February 26, 2022

AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee would like to thank all in-person and remote volunteers at the Flushing Clinic on February 26, 2022. PBCS is especially grateful to the Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) for hosting this clinic at their Community Center, for providing the coffee and snacks to keep participants alert and energized, and for the staff to interpret for the Spanish-speaking clients.

The clinic began at 11:00 AM with attorneys quickly being split up into three rooms to prep for the arrival of clients, with other volunteers preparing documents that needed to be handed out and information that needed to be collected. The clinic assisted 17 clients facing a variety of issues from tenant disputes, domestic violence, marriage and divorce, and loans and contracts.

With the help of AAFE and AABANY translators, clients with limited English proficiency were able to find the aid they needed from volunteer attorneys who were able to understand the nuances and emotions of their situations. For example, one client who only spoke Mandarin, had a temporary order of protection made against her by a family member, but the order was limited. Under the order, the client was permitted to return to the apartment, but the family member refused to let her back in. Many factors go into the enforcement of orders of protection, and it would be difficult in the limited time available for consultations at the clinic to fully analyze a given situation. However, the two volunteer attorneys assigned to help this client assisted her to the extent they could, pointing her towards other resources, and alerting her about specific laws that could apply to her situation.

This clinic could not have been possible without the gracious help of many AABANY members and committees. A special thank you to May Wong, a current Vice-Chair of PBCS, for organizing these Pro Bono Clinics, Eugene Kim, another Vice-Chair of PBCS, for serving as an attorney volunteer, and Committee Chair Judy Lee, for helping to prep the paperwork, attending the Prep Meeting the night before (2/25), and appearing virtually to advise clients. Additionally, thank you to Beatrice Leong, AABANY’s Membership Director and long time Pro Bono Clinic participant, for guiding newer volunteers, consoling a domestic violence victim, and assisting as a volunteer; Meng Zhang, for helping to translate and helping with the organization of the clinic; Evelyn Gong, Co-Chair of the Government Service and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee, for serving as an attorney volunteer, and Kevin Hsi, also a Co-Chair of GSPI, for serving as a volunteer.

PBCS greatly appreciates the law students from Columbia University who were able to attend and observe the clinics as part of their Caravan, a program in which law students spend their spring break working on pro bono projects. 

For more information about future clinics, go to https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1615120.

For up-to-date details about the clinic and other events, please check PBCS’s event calendar.

AABANY Members: Pro Bono Opportunity – Help Close Civil Justice Gap through New York State Attorney Emeritus Program (AEP)

AABANY encourages its members to participate in the New York State Attorney Emeritus Program (AEP), a New York State Court system initiative through which senior attorneys offer pro bono civil legal service. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Yorkers are in urgent need of legal assistance. Our membership is acutely aware that COVID-19 has not only severely exacerbated anti-Asian hate but also highlighted the reluctance to prosecute anti-Asian hate crimes; more broadly, COVID-19 has widened and drawn attention to the civil justice gap in New York State. Volunteering through AEP could be life-altering for New Yorkers in need, whether they are struggling with housing, consumer debt and bankruptcy, access to unemployment and subsistence benefits, end-of-life planning, and domestic matters, among other issues. AEP, helmed by former Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and endorsed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, presents a substantive opportunity for AABANY members to give back and look out for its New York community.

To volunteer, AEP seeks lawyers aged fifty-five or older, retired or still in practice, in good standing, and with ten years experience. Attorney Emeritus volunteers commit to performing 60 hours of pro bono work with an approved legal services organization or court program over the two-year attorney registration period.

Attorney Emeritus volunteers also receive benefits including up to 15 CLE credits and special recognition from Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives Edwina G. Mendelson.

More information on the AEP can be found at http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/volunteer/emeritus/.

The application for participating in the AEP can be found here.

In the News: AABANY Remote Clinic and Spring Break Caravan Featured in Columbia Law School Article

In the April 26 article “Columbia Law Students Participate in 2021 Virtual Spring Break Caravans,” Columbia Law School highlighted a few of the remote spring break pro bono caravans students participated in this year. One of the virtual caravans featured was the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) Remote Clinic. During the spring break caravan, Columbia Law students helped update AABANY’s COVID-19 webpages, participated in client consultations with volunteer attorneys, and did research on consumer debt/foreclosure, immigration, housing, employment, and family law in New York. AABANY Student Leader Jenny Park (CLS’21) organized the caravan with AABANY “because it allowed students to become directly involved with COVID-19 relief efforts and address a specific need in a short period of time.”

To read more about participants’ experiences with the AABANY Spring Break Caravan and to read about other virtual caravans, click here. Thanks to Jenny Park for bringing AABANY and the Columbia Law School community together for this opportunity to provide pro bono resources for the community.

NAPABA Partners with New Initiative to Combat Anti-Asian Violence

For Immediate Release: Date: April 15, 2021

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

NAPABA is proud to join the newly established Alliance for Asian American Justice (“The Alliance”) as part of a coalition of leading AAPI advocacy organizations, Fortune 1000 General Counsel, and over 40 law firms in a national initiative designed to ensure that victims of anti-Asian crime, hatred, and bigotry are able to access pro bono legal services. The work of The Alliance leverages NAPABA’s existing intake efforts on hate crimes and hate incident reporting, and bolsters NAPABA’s leadership in providing victims, community based organizations, and community leaders with the information they need, in the language they understand, through its groundbreaking collection of hate crimes reporting toolkits, which were developed in partnership with the APIA Health Forum and translated into 24 different AAPI languages, the largest collection of its kind. For more on The Alliance, please click here.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of approximately 50,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.