AABANY AAVTF Holds a Briefing on Anti-Asian Violence on May 25

On May 25, the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF) hosted an information briefing about the AAVTF’s activities and about the rise in anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The speakers for the event were AABANY President Terry Shen; Board Director, Issues Committee Co-Chair and Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair Chris Kwok; Board Director and past Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee Co-Chair Karen Yau; PBCS Committee Co-Chair Karen King; Prosecutors’ Committee Co-Chair Joseb Gim; and Executive Director Yang Chen.

Chris and President Shen gave the opening remarks, introducing the event, and thanking all the attendees for coming.

After these remarks, Chris began the presentation, explaining how the publicity about anti-Asian violence generated in mainstream media has suddenly catapulted Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) into the public consciousness. Unlike before, Asians are now viewed as a group that experiences discrimination and violence, just like any other minority. Chris explained that these realizations politically empower AAPIs to make change in the political system as Asians become more aware about race and the ways in which it affects them. The AAPI identity has also been recreated through artwork, publications, and other initiatives. Asian non-profits have also begun receiving a large influx of donations that have great potential to aid the AAPI community. Chris also discussed the history of AABANY’s report and how Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric about the virus incited a wave of anti-Asian hate and violence during early 2020. These events culminated in the report’s publication in February 2021. Karen then discussed the report’s publication process which involved the feedback and support of bar associations, law firms and other organizations. The subsequent publicity generated by the report was cemented by the anti-Asian shootings in Atlanta. Ever since, Karen explained, AABANY has frequently been requested to speak at numerous events and on many media outlets. Many initiatives proposed by the report have also since been implemented.

Yang then went on to discuss the genesis of the AAVTF, made up of members of the Academic Committee, Issues Committee, Legal Referral and Information Services (LRIS) Committee, PBCS Committee, Prosecutors Committee, and Student Outreach Committee as well as Immediate Past President Sapna Palla, President Shen, and President-Elect Will Ng. Yang also explained how the AAVTF was founded to realize the goals outlined in the report, focusing on three prongs of action: education/communication, research, and advocacy. Ever since, the AAVTF has pressed for hate crime prosecutions in DA Offices, published Know Your Rights Brochures for community members on what to do if they face an anti-Asian bias incident or hate crime, organized speaking engagements, begun data tracking for incidents, formed the Hate Eradication Active Response Team (HEART), and much more to raise awareness and combat anti-Asian violence.

Joe Gim, prosecutor and the Chief of the new Hate Crimes Bureau at the Nassau County DA Office next discussed the role of the Prosecutors’ Committee in the AAVTF, which was primarily to shed light on criminal statutes and on the gaps between law enforcement’s understanding and implementation of these statutes. This information, Joe explained, is used to strengthen AABANY’s initiatives and advocacy efforts.

Chris affirmed this statement, reiterating his thanks to the AAVTF and the indispensable support it provides in leading the conversation about anti-Asian violence. Chris also pointed out that any movements that fight back against hate, regardless of which group is targeted, are fighting against a common enemy of structural racism.

Yang and Karen Yau went on to promote the Turning the Tide (T3) Project, which is hosted at the Asian American Law Fund of New York (AALFNY) to raise money for the AAVTF’s initiatives, research, and advocacy combating anti-Asian hate and violence. Karen King also gave a special shoutout to the HEART initiative, encouraging the attendees to volunteer their time to help connect victims of anti-Asian violence with legal aid and other resources. She also encouraged attendees to involve their law firms as sponsors for projects and events.

Chris then closed the presentation by pointing out how the police’s lackluster response to hate crimes is in part due to the historical invisibility of the AAPI community. He also explained how this invisibility has its roots in the 1853 People v. Hall case where George Hall, a white man, was convicted but then released after murdering a Chinese miner. Chris explained how Hall appealed his release on the basis of a California statute which prevented people of color from testifying against whites. Chris also emphasized that supporting the Black Lives Matter movement does not detract from support for the AAPI cause. To illustrate the importance of building a multi-racial coalition, Chris recounted an interview he had with the celebrated documentary director Spike Lee for his film about New York City and race that will be released in September 2021. Lee explained that he had chosen to interview Chris because “people were asking where the Asians were. And I listened.”

After the presentations, the discussion was opened to the attendees for a question and answer session. 

Karen Lin, PBCS Committee Co-Chair asked whether or not AABANY would advocate for including AAPI history in the public school curriculum. Yang answered by reiterating AABANY’s support of any educational initiatives, pointing to AABANY’s trial reenactments project as an example. 

AABANY member Jennifer Luo then pointed the discussion towards the lack of successful hate crime prosecutions. Joe explained that law enforcement currently lacks sufficient resources and infrastructure to investigate hate crimes. As hate crimes are unique in that the prosecutor must prove that the perpetrator was motivated to commit the crime due to racial bias, this process requires more investigation and information which the police currently lacks. To address this issue, Joe also proposed creating a database of hate crimes and bias incidents that would allow law enforcement to easily access information and also to enable community members to report incidents more efficiently. He also mentioned the newly minted COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would allocate funding towards combating hate crimes. Chris also added that AABANY is planning a Candidates’ Forum that would give AABANY and its members an opportunity to ask about measures being considered to protect the AAPI community from violence. 

David Ahn then asked about AABANY’s plans to monitor hate crimes going forward. Chris answered by citing AABANY’s involvement in a case in Flushing, Queens where the perpetrator, despite revealing his racist sentiments in a text sent to the New York Times, was not charged with a hate crime. After AABANY’s advocacy in the DA’s Office, the perpetrator was charged with a hate crime. Chris also added that, though not every case would lead to a hate crime enhancement, AABANY is continuing to monitor the news and other outlets for advocacy opportunities. Yang also explained that the HEART initiative would help AABANY keep track of the incidents, connect with the community, and improve AABANY’s advocacy efforts. Karen Yau also pointed out that there are other alternatives to criminal prosecutions that victims would be able to pursue if they wished.

Chris then shared his own experiences with anti-Asian violence growing up, recounting a story where his friends were assaulted by a white supremacist gang while exiting a movie theater in Queens. He also described his efforts to reconnect with them hoping to preserve their stories and voices as a part of the history of anti-Asian violence.

AABANY Treasurer William Hao also discussed his own involvement in the aftermath of the Atlanta shootings while on a call with former U.S. Attorney Byung J. (“BJay”) Pak, the FBI, and local law enforcement. Will shared that even though the media had severely twisted the narrative by promoting the perpetrator’s claim that he had not been motivated by racism, the call served to give Asians a voice in revealing the truth of the events and reshaping the story. Will concluded by emphasizing the importance of AAPI representation in government and law enforcement.

Marilyn Go (USMJ EDNY, ret’d) then asked about AABANY’s ability to speak out during majority political forums. Chris answered by pointing out the difficulty of entering majority forums, but also noted that events recorded on Zoom would allow AABANY to hold candidates accountable for their words. Yang also referenced the City Council District One Candidates’ Forum which did take questions from AABANY regarding the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force. Jennifer then asked about the possibility of keeping a record of candidates’ responses regarding issues of anti-Asian violence. Chris responded that AABANY’s future plans to hold a Manhattan DA Candidates’ forum would allow AABANY to record responses from the candidates on that issue.

AABANY thanks all of the attendees for their time and their commitment to serving the AAPI community. To view the recording of the event, click here.

AABANY Congratulates Brian Lee on his New Position as Deputy Executive ADA for General Litigation

The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates Brian Lee, founding member and former Co-Chair of the Prosecutors’ Committee, on being promoted to Deputy Executive ADA for General Litigation at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. He is the first Korean-American Executive-level Assistant District Attorney in New York State. In his new role, Brian will oversee the office’s general litigation division.

Brian is a graduate of State University of New York at Albany and Pace University School of Law. His previous positions include serving as the Chief of both District Court Trial Bureau and County Court Trial Bureau, and working at the Queens Criminal Court, Intake, Appeals, Narcotic Trials, and Domestic Violence Bureaus.

Please see the announcement below released by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office for more information on Deputy Executive ADA Brian Lee:

Prosecutors Committee Celebrates 11th Annual Reception at NYCLA

AABANY’s Prosecutors Committee was founded in September 2008 to enhance the advancement and professional development of Asian Pacific American (APA) prosecutors, the establishment of a network between former and current APA prosecutors, the recruitment of APA law students to become prosecutors, and the cultivation of trust and communication between the APA community and the local prosecutors’ offices. 

Our membership is comprised of current and former prosecutors of Asian American, Pacific Islander and South Asian heritage from all five local New York City District Attorney’s offices, Nassau and Suffolk County District Attorney’s Offices, Assistant Attorney Generals from the New York State Attorney General’s Office, as well as federal prosecutors from both the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.

Each year, the Committee hosts an annual reception to honor those who have contributed to the criminal justice system as well as to promote diversity within the APA community in New York City.

On December 3, 2019, at its 11th Annual Reception, the Committee honored Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, and Gilbert C. Hong, Acting Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, for their exemplary and established record of public service and their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the profession.

Approximately 150 Prosecutors Committee members and guests filled to capacity the main auditorium at the New York County Lawyers Association, 14 Vesey Street, to celebrate this special event.  The evening featured distinguished guests and speakers who provided congratulatory remarks to the Committee and the honorees. 

The speakers at the daïs included the following representatives from state, local and Federal prosecutors’ offices:

  • Joseph Alexis, Executive ADA, Kings County
  • Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney, Southern District of NY
  • Bridget Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor
  • Catherine Christian, Special ADA for External Affairs, NY County
  • Mark Lesko, Chief AUSA, Eastern District of NY
  • Derek Lynton, Chief ADA, Bronx County
  • John Ryan, Acting District Attorney, Queens County
  • Anthony Scarpino, District Attorney, Westchester County
  • Madeline Singas, District Attorney, Nassau County

Also in attendance were the following judges:

  • Hon. Shahabuddeen Ally, Bronx Criminal Court
  • Hon. Dorothy Chin Brandt, Retired Justice, Queens Supreme Court
  • Hon. Karen Gopee, Queens Criminal Court
  • Hon. Marilyn Go, Retired Judge, District Court, EDNY
  • Hon. Lorna Schofield, District Court, SDNY
  • Hon. Don Leo, Brooklyn Criminal Court
  • Hon. Danny Chun, Brooklyn Supreme Court
  • Hon. Phyllis Chu, NYC Criminal Court
  • Hon. John Hecht, Brooklyn Supreme Court
  • Hon. Dean Kusakabe, Queens Family Court
  • Hon. Judy Kim, NYC Criminal Court
  • Hon. Daniel Lewis, Queens Supreme Court
  • Hon. Richard Tsai, NYC Criminal Court
  • Hon. Cori Weston, Judge, NYC Criminal Court

Distinguished guests included:

  • Agnes Chan, first Asian woman detective in NYPD history
  • Yang Chen, Executive Director of AABANY
  • Sherry Cohen, Chief of Legal Recruitment, Bronx County
  • Lila Kirton, Bureau Chief, Westchester County
  • Jesse Sligh, Executive ADA, Queens County
  • Brian Song, President, AABANY

In addition, the family of NYPD Det. Wenjian Liu, who made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in the line of duty in 2014, made a special visit to the Reception.  Det. Liu’s family received the Prosecutors Committee’s posthumous award on Det. Liu’s behalf at the 2015 reception. The family was recognized with a heartfelt standing ovation and a message that Det. Liu will not be forgotten.

When AABANY President Brian Song delivered his welcome remarks at the start of the reception, he passed along the word from Queens County District Attorney-elect Melinda Katz’s transition team that her office is inviting applications, especially from diverse candidates at all levels. Many of the other speakers at the daïs lost no time in announcing that their offices were also hiring. We anticipate that prosecutors’ offices may see an uptick in applications coming out of this Reception.

AABANY thanks Prosecutors Committee co-chairs Myongjae M. Yi and Maria Park as well as vice-chairs Michael Leigh and Emily Ching for organizing the event. The Committee also thanks Kin Ng, Brian Lee, David Chiang, Catherine Christian, Francis Chin, Giyang An and the planning members for their assistance.  AABANY thanks the New York County Lawyers Association for providing the beautiful venue again for this special celebration.

More photos from the event can be found here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/UZiD12LZFpxJmwLP6

To learn more about the Prosecutors Committee, please visit: https://www.aabany.org/page/73

AABANY Goes to Yankee Stadium

On Friday, August 16, the Membership Committee together with the Prosecutors’ Committee hosted an outing to Yankee Stadium to watch the first-place Yankees take on the Cleveland Indians. Thanks to our sponsor, Esquire Deposition Solutions, 40 AABANY members and their guests were able to buy tickets at just $5 per person. Early arrivers got a free Yankees beach towel. Half of the tickets were standing room and the other half were seated. Membership Director Beatrice Leong designated the Toyota Terrace on the field level as the meeting point for people to gather and enjoy watching the game from center field or on the numerous screens by the bar at Toyota Terrace. AABANY members and their friends congregated at Toyota Terrace throughout the evening to watch the Yanks hold on to their early lead over the Indians. During the 7th inning, the Yanks loaded the bases and threatened to increase their lead significantly, but the Indians changed pitchers and managed to stave off a rout by the Yanks.

Friday night proved to be a great summer evening to enjoy America’s favorite pastime, in good company, complete with a free drink and hot dog for those who got the standing room tickets.

Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks again to Esquire Deposition Solutions for sponsoring. See you at the next AABANY outing!

GSPI and Prosecutors Committees Co-Sponsor July Membership Mixer

On Thursday, July 18, 2019, AABANY’s Membership Committee, Government Service & Public Interest (GSPI) Committee, and Prosecutors Committee hosted a Membership Mixer with members, colleagues, and friends at Stout NYC on West 33rd Street. 

Members and non-members alike enjoyed reconnecting with familiar faces and building new relationships. We filled an entire side room in the cellar of Stout. The date of the mixer coincided with the birthday of former Prosecutors Committee Co-Chair Helen Ahn, who sadly passed away last November. To read the tribute to her in the Winter 2018 issue of The Advocate, click here. The Prosecutors Committee brought a birthday cake to mark the occasion and to honor Helen’s memory.

The Membership Committee held a special raffle. To be eligible for prizes, attendees had to follow AABANY’s Instagram account and post about the Membership Mixer. A special shout out to Jimei Hon and Melanie Rios for winning free memberships, and Abraham Lee for winning an international whiskey flight courtesy of BARO by Chefs Society.

To learn more about the GSPI Committee, go here. To learn more about the Prosecutors Committee, go here.

Join the Membership Committee and the Prosecutors Committee for an outing to watch a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium on August 16. To view the event, click here.

AABANY Prosecutors Committee Celebrates 10th Anniversary

On December 18, 2018, AABANY’s Prosecutors Committee held its 10th Annual Reception by honoring Bridget G. Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, and Jesse J. Sligh, Executive Assistant District Attorney, Queens County District Attorney’s Office, for their exemplary and established record of public service and their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the profession and the community.

Approximately 200 Prosecutors Committee members and guests filled the New York County Lawyers Association at 14 Vesey Street to capacity to celebrate this special anniversary event.  The evening featured numerous distinguished guests and speakers who provided congratulatory remarks to the Committee and the honorees.

Notable guests and speakers included:  

  • Darcel Clark, Bronx County DA
  • Michael McMahon, Richmond County DA
  • Madeline Singas, Nassau County DA
  • Cyrus Vance, New York County DA
  • Neil Corwin, Executive AUSA, US Attorney’ s Office, SDNY
  • Nancy Hoppock, Chief ADA, Kings County DA’s Office
  • Bridget Rohde, Chief AUSA, US Attorney’s Office, EDNY
  • John Ryan, Chief ADA, Queens County DA’s Office
  • Joe Alexis, Chief of Trials, Kings County DA’s Office
  • Catherine Christian, Special Assistant to the NY County DA for External Affairs
  • Diane Gujarati, Deputy Chief of Criminal Division, US Attorney’s Office, SDNY
  • Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President
  • Yang Chen, Executive Director, AABANY
  • Pamela Chen [Judge, US District Court, EDNY]
  • Dorothy Chin-Brandt [Retired Judge, Queens County Supreme Court]
  • Phyllis Chu [Judge, NY County Criminal Court]
  • Danny Chun [Judge, Kings County Supreme Court]
  • Ronald Hollie [Judge, Queens County Supreme Court]
  • Gilbert Hong [Judge, NY County Criminal Court]
  • Judy Kim [Judge, NY County Criminal Court]
  • Peggy Kuo [Judge, US District Court, EDNY]
  • Don Leo [Judge, Kings County Criminal Court]
  • Daniel Lewis [Judge, Queens County Supreme Court]
  • Kevin McGrath [Judge, NY County Criminal Court]

The Prosecutors Committee presented a 10-year retrospective slideshow reflecting on the birth and growth of this vibrant committee over the past decade.

This year’s reception also included a touching tribute in memory of Committee Co-Chair Helen Ahn, who passed unexpectedly in November. Helen’s parents and family were present to hear and receive the tributes from all the speakers and honorees.

AABANY thanks Prosecutors Committee co-chairs James Lin and Myongjae M. Yi for organizing the event, as well as Kin Ng, Catherine Christian, Francis Chin, Laura Badger, and the planning members for their assistance.  AABANY also thanks the New York County Lawyers Association for providing the beautiful venue for this special celebration.

AABANY congratulates the Prosecutors Committee on reaching its 10-year milestone and wishes it much success and growth in the coming years.  The Committee is comprised of current and former state and federal prosecutors. To learn more about the Committee go to https://www.aabany.org/page/73