In the News: AABANY Member Anna Mercado Clark Featured in The FilAm Article: “Lawyer Anna Mercado Clark’s Fork in the Road”

On June 30, The FilAm published a profile about AABANY Member Anna Mercado Clark, her decision to pursue the law, her professional background, and her Filipino identity. Born in the Philippines, Anna immigrated to the United States as a twelve-year-old and initially planned to pursue a career as a physician, even graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology. However,  she became interested in the law after learning about Bush v. Gore following the 2000 presidential election. Curious about the law and its “impact on society,” Anna attended Fordham University School of Law, where she interned for the Hon. Denny Chin, who was then a judge at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and who now serves in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. After graduating law school, Anna worked as a criminal prosecutor in the Queens District Attorney’s Office and then as an attorney for a private law firm, where she represented health care providers in medical malpractice cases. She currently is a partner at Phillips Lytle LLP, where she leads the Data Security and Private Practice Team and the eDiscovery and Digital Forensics Team. Anna also serves as an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Fordham Law School.

Anna, who has described herself as “decidedly Filipino,” has always found ways to promote her Filipino identity. During her time at Rutgers, she served as president of the Rutgers Association of Philippine Students and helped plan the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue’s 2000 Conference. Currently, Anna serves in leadership roles in her law firm, in minority bar associations, and in the greater community. She credits her father, Dr. Daniel Mercado, for encouraging her to remain connected to and take pride in her Filipino identity. To read the full article, please click here.

AABANY Member Profile: Vincent T. Chang Becomes First AAPI President of NYCLA

Vincent T. Chang, active member of AABANY since 2000 and former AABANY President in 2007, was inducted as the first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) President of the New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) on May 28, 2021. In his new role, Vince is prepared to lead NYCLA in supporting diverse communities, reaching out to more young attorneys and law students, and closing the justice gap to serve those in the community who are most in need.

Since high school, Vince gravitated towards pursuing a career in the legal profession. Involved in both his high school and college debate teams, Vince found overlapping aspects between debate and law. In presenting an argument, he noticed both involve research, assembly of evidence, and oral presentation. After graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School, he clerked for the Honorable Robert Krupansky of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit before joining Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in 1989. Being familiar with litigation from his experience in debate and serving as a judicial clerk in a Federal appellate court, Vince chose to practice in litigation. Currently, Vince is a Litigation Partner at Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch LLP in New York specializing in complex commercial litigation matters in the financial industry, including investment banking, hedge funds, and mortgage backed securities.

Outside of his work at the law firm, Vince is an active member of numerous bar associations and organizations, and has served and continues to serve in various leadership positions. To name a few, Vince previously served on the New York State Bar Association Committee of Bar Leaders, on the Board of Directors at Legal Services NYC, and is currently the Vice President of the Asian American Law Fund of New York. Although he might be affectionately called a “Bar Junkie,” Vince did not participate in bar association work until later on in his career.

The first bar association Vince joined was AABANY, and he appreciated both the social and intellectual aspects of the association. He enjoyed the opportunity to learn about different areas of law while also being able to network and meet prominent lawyers. One of his fondest memories of serving as President of AABANY in 2007 was hosting the Annual Dinner because it was a rare event for 500 to 600 AAPI lawyers, including General Counsels and Judges, to all gather in the same room in New York City. This was especially significant because at the time there were at most 400 members in AABANY compared to the 1,500 members AABANY has now.

At AABANY, Vince also played a prominent role in organizing the AABANY Trial Reenactments. With a goal to educate lawyers and the public about the notable trials and cases in U.S. history involving AAPIs, Vince assisted Judge Denny Chin and Kathy Hirata Chin to develop scripts for the productions. Since 2007, Vince has starred as a cast member in numerous reenactments at the annual NAPABA conventions and at other events. He most recently played Fred Korematsu in the “Fred Korematsu and His Fight For Justice” reenactment in November 2019 at the NAPABA convention.

Today, Vince is the first AAPI President of NYCLA, which was the first bar association to admit women and lawyers of color into its membership. He views his role as both an honor and a serious responsibility—an honor because past presidents include esteemed individuals and a responsibility because of his duty to represent AAPIs and serve as a role model. At a time when diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of many bar associations’ and law firms’ missions, NYCLA plans to be more interactive with young lawyers, especially diverse attorneys, by reaching out to law schools, affinity bar groups, and law firms. Vince also plans for NYCLA to remain relevant on public policy issues and respond to them in a timely manner. He hopes that “taking positions that affect diverse communities will make them notice and realize NYCLA is on their side.”

A common theme of Vince’s work is the pursuit of justice to not only improve the legal profession, but to also improve the quality of legal representation for individuals in the community. He has served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to review federal judicial nominees; sat on a NYCLA panel at a public hearing to address the impact of budget cuts on the Judiciary; served on the Disciplinary Committee for the First Department to prosecute disciplinary complaints against lawyers in Manhattan; and worked on other initiatives to minimize the justice gap. Vince plans to continue working on this at NYCLA as “access to justice is a hallmark of what bar associations and NYCLA are aiming for.” One program NYCLA has planned is to support attorneys who represent indigent persons through the Assigned Counsel Plan (18b). Under the proposed program, by increasing the rate at which assigned counsel are paid, there will hopefully be an increase of lawyers interested in doing 18b work, which will further decrease the access-to-justice gap. NYCLA also hopes to revive their Special Masters Program to provide an opportunity for young attorneys to gain experience working with the court system, and to close the gap between court workload and staff gap. At NYCLA’s AAPI Heritage Month Celebration on June 2nd, Vince vowed to continue to uphold NYCLA’s focus on sustaining the rule of law including the importance of practicing diversity, equity and inclusion in furtherance of fairness and justice for all.

Please join AABANY in congratulating Vince on becoming the first AAPI President of NYCLA and for doing all the work he does to support communities. We wish Vince great success in his vital new role as NYCLA President! To learn more about NYCLA, visit its website at https://www.nycla.org/. AABANY members who join NYCLA for the first time are eligible to receive 50% off their annual dues the first year and 25% off the second year. For more details, click here.

Member Profile: Chris Kwok Reconstructs the Hidden Narratives of Asian America

In response to the anti-Asian violence and harassment exacerbated by COVID-19, Chris Kwok has created important spaces for the APIA community to address and heal from these discriminatory acts. As Chair of the Issues Committee of AABANY, Chris has organized numerous panels and discussions to educate individuals about the history of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia relating to public health crises, and has co-authored an op-ed for the New York Daily News on the topic.

Born in China, Chris moved to the United States in 1979, where his family was among the first wave of Asian immigrants to settle in Flushing. He had always been interested in history and was able to focus on Chinese and Asian American history as an undergraduate at Cornell. He then went on to UCLA Law School to continue his developing interest in civil rights and critical race theory. Chris served as a mediator for the New York District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Chris also served on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and was the founding chair of the Asian American Pacific Islander Network. Currently, he is a mediator of labor and employment disputes at JAMS.

The idea that Asian Americans are carriers of disease is not new–it is deeply rooted in Western and American thought. Chris cites the bubonic plague outbreak in San Francisco in the early 1900s as an example of APIA communities being subjected to similar hatred and discrimination we see today. In order to better understand and combat the anti-Asian violence and rhetoric from COVID-19, and also to become better citizens and community members, Asian Americans must be aware of their own history in this country. Unfortunately, Asian American history is not mainstream: this education is not taught but must be self-directed. Through his programs and discussions, Chris hopes to share this under-acknowledged history and “reconstruct the narratives that are hidden in plain sight for most Asian Americans.” 

Over the past two months, Chris has organized and been featured in many events addressing anti-Asian violence and harassment. On April 3, he led a panel discussion through the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) that aimed to educate Asian American lawyers on the history of using public health concerns to justify anti-Asian sentiments. On April 20, Chris participated in a virtual town hall with Alvin Bragg, former Chief Deputy at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where he spoke to a larger audience about multi-racial coalition building to combat all types of hate crimes. Chris also spoke on a panel for the Asian American Arts Alliance on May 19, where he discussed the rise in COVID-19 hate crimes and how Asian American artists have the power to retell the lost narratives of the APIA community in American history. On May 28, Chris gave the introductory remarks for a panel responding to a virtual trial reenactment of the Vincent Chin case, where he highlighted the relevance of Vincent Chin’s murder in the current environment of anti-Asian harassment and violence. Finally, Chris served as a panelist for the Thomson Reuters Asian Affinity Network on May 28, where he spoke to a corporate audience about the need to build consciousness and address these anti-Asian sentiments in a setting where conversations about diversity and inclusion are generally more constrained.

From the responses he has received from the discussions and panels, Chris has realized that Asian Americans yearn for a space to have these conversations about their histories and identities. The political and social culture that Asian Americans live in limits their opportunities to talk through experiences with discrimination, especially within a public sphere. Chris highlighted that many Asian Americans, given the current context of George Floyd’s murder and the greater Black Lives Matter protests, do not believe they should speak out about their own experiences of anti-Asian violence and harassment. There is no question that the Black community faces longer, systemic, and deadly forms of discrimination. But this does not mean that Asian Americans must be apologetic when talking about their own experiences with racism or stop having conversations addressing their own histories and identities. Rather, the APIA community can show solidarity with the Black community and recognize the experiences of African Americans, while also fighting against and raising awareness of anti-Asian sentiments. Both of these conversations can occur at the same time, as long as Asian Americans acknowledge the context and connection of their experiences to those of the Black community.

Finally, Chris stressed that the APIA community must never stop talking about their history and the prevalence of anti-Asian violence and harassment. Everyone has a different role to play in fighting discrimination and hatred against the APIA community: some may lead important conversations and movements, while others may financially contribute to community groups. Each individual must do “one more thing than what they’re doing already,” as their efforts may inspire others to do the same. When Asian Americans have discussions about their identities and histories, they raise greater consciousness of Asian American issues and contribute to ending these acts of anti-Asian violence and hatred.

We thank Chris Kwok for facilitating much-needed conversations within AABANY and the greater APIA community. Chris will be speaking on a panel for the 2020 Federal Bar Association Eastern District of New York Diversity Forum: The Impact of COVID-19 on Minority Communities on June 23, 2020. To register for this event, see https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1386519.  For more information on the Issues Committee, see https://www.aabany.org/page/154.

AABANY Member Profile: Hon. John Z. Wang Runs for New York City Civil Court

https://www.instagram.com/judgewang4civilcourt/

Hon. John Z. Wang, a proud member of AABANY, has launched his own campaign to run for New York City Civil Court in the First Municipal Court District, which covers Battery Park, Chinatown, FiDi, Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, and Two Bridges. An active contributor to the Judiciary Committee of AABANY, Judge Wang has organized panels on how to become an appointed and elected judge in hopes of encouraging more Asian American and Pacific Islander lawyers to pursue this path. Now, he hopes to make his community proud by becoming the first Asian American Civil Court Judge elected to the First District.

Judge Wang immigrated to the United States at five years old and grew up in a predominantly working-class Italian American neighborhood in Brooklyn. As one of very few Asian Americans in his community, he recognized the dangers of racism and bigotry and the importance of respecting other cultures and races.

The Judge has devoted his entire career to public service. After graduating from Vassar College and Brooklyn Law School, he received a six-month fellowship to work at Legal Services, where he advocated for claimants of unemployment insurance. Subsequently, he served as a court attorney in Brooklyn Family Court and the Bronx and Manhattan Civil Courts, and clerked for Hon. Anthony Cannataro, a New York State Supreme Court Justice and the Administrative Judge of the New York City Civil Court. Last year, Judge Wang was appointed as a Brooklyn Housing Court Judge. In all his years serving in New York’s courts, he has also contributed to policy-making by helping to restructure parts of the Manhattan Civil Court.

Now, Judge Wang hopes to serve as the first Asian American Civil Court Judge elected to the First Judicial District. Judge Wang views the Civil Court as the people’s court–it serves everyday people with real, working-class issues. He is moved by the stories and individuals that these small claims and credit card disputes represent, and hopes to do his part to deliver justice to everyday people.

Judge Wang also maintains a reputation for treating individuals that come before him with dignity, compassion, and fairness. As the only sitting judge in this contested race, Judge Wang understands the weight of making difficult decisions regarding people’s livelihoods.

AABANY’s Judiciary Committee vetted Judge Wang for his appointment to Housing Court in 2017 and found him highly qualified and well-suited for the role. The Committee noted that “[t]he advocates and judges that encounter Mr. Wang in the courthouse uniformly praise his intellect, work ethic and demeanor.” After more than two years on the bench, Committee Co-Chair Will Wang (no relation) observed: “It is somewhat uncommon for a relatively recent judge to have published the number of opinions Judge Wang has published. To me, this demonstrates both Judge Wang’s work ethic and overall writing ability.”

Judge Wang believes he faces a tough but winnable campaign. The COVID-19 pandemic has created serious challenges, including uncertainty in voter turnout and participation, but he hopes that his experience working in Civil Court will inspire individuals to volunteer and vote for him.

For more information on Judge Wang’s campaign, including how you can volunteer or support his candidacy, visit https://www.judgewang4civilcourt.com/ or email judgewang4civilcourt@gmail.com.

This member profile has been published for informational purposes only and does not constitute and should not be construed as a campaign endorsement.

https://www.instagram.com/judgewang4civilcourt/

In-House Counsel Profile: Target Corp.’s Don Liu

In-House Counsel Profile: Target Corp.’s Don Liu

Michael Wu featured in May issue of Inside Counsel

Michael Wu featured in May issue of Inside Counsel