In the News: AABANY, SABANY, KALAGNY, & FALA-New York’s Joint Statement on AAPI Under-representation in the Judiciary Featured in The New York Law Journal

On Tuesday, June 15, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY), and the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-New York) released a joint statement calling on the New York State Unified Court System (UCS) to fill judicial vacancies with Asian American Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) judges, including that of Judge Anthony Cannataro’s former role as the citywide administrative judge for the civil court of New York City. On Wednesday, June 16, The New York Law Journal published a front-page article recounting the social and demographic context driving the release of this joint statement, reiterating how “[u]nlike other communities of color, Asian representation has lagged due to a failure by political and judicial leaders to support and promote AAPI judges.” The article also noted how the AAPI bar associations acknowledged the diversity of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent judicial appointments but remained staunch in their commitment to remedying the dearth of AAPI representation on the bench.

To read the full article, click here (subscription required).

AABANY Joins SABANY, KALAGNY, and FALA-New York in Calling for Increased Representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Leadership Positions in the New York Judiciary

In February of this year, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) released its report A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions, co-authored with Paul, Weiss, detailing the surge of anti-Asian hate and violence as a result of the pandemic. The report advanced seven carefully-considered proposals for combating anti-Asian racism and discrimination, including, a call for “Greater Representation of Asians in Law Enforcement, Public Office, and the Courts.” Consistent with this proposal, AABANY joined in a statement with the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY), and the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-New York), calling on the New York State Unified Court System (UCS) to appoint Asian American Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) judges to fill the positions of Administrative Judge in the Civil Court of the City of New York, Administrative Judge of Supreme Court, Criminal Term in Bronx County, Administrative Judge of Supreme Court, Criminal Matters in Queens County, and Appellate Term, First Department.

As the accompanying press release for the joint statement issued on June 15 notes, “the lack of Asian representation on the bench is not a recent phenomenon.” As AABANY’s report explains, “Racism and bias fester where positions of power are held primarily by the white majority. Institutions that are meant to both represent and serve justice to the community will be more effective if they more closely reflect the composition of the community.” Efforts to increase diversity in the judiciary comprise first steps to ensuring the legal system can protect all Americans, regardless of racial identity.

Secretary Jeh Johnson elucidated in his October 1, 2020 Report from the Special Advisor on Equal Justice in the New York State Courts that “the overwhelming majority of the civil or criminal litigants in the Housing, Family, Civil and Criminal courts in New York City are people of color,” but “[b]oth the Minorities and Williams Commissions identified the lack of diversity among judges and non-judicial employees within the court system as a major issue affecting the administration of justice in the state.” Though these courts serve many litigants from communities of color, the bench does not reflect that diversity, with the overwhelming number of judges being male and white. Secretary Johnson concludes, “The sad picture that emerges is, in effect, a second-class system of justice for people of color in New York State.”

AABANY, through its joint statement with SABANY, KALAGNY, and FALA-New York, reaffirms its commitment to the fair administration of justice for all, calling for change to the longstanding under-representation of AAPI judges in New York State. Read more here.

In The News: Ryan D. Budhu’s Op-Ed on Police Brutality And George Floyd Published in USA Today

On June 19, 2020, USA Today published an Op-Ed written by Ryan D. Budhu, a member of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and past president of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY).

In the article, Budhu recounts his personal experience with police brutality, when his brother died in the custody of the NYPD. He also reflects on this tragedy in relation to the death of George Floyd, and the need for allyship between South Asian and Black communities. He writes: “I have a duty to listen to and help address inequities, especially those that affect Black lives within the circles that I occupy.”

To read the full article, click here.

AABANY Co-Hosts Webinar on Becoming a Magistrate Judge

On May 20, 2020, the Judiciary Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and the Public Interest Committee of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY) co-hosted a panel on how to become a Magistrate Judge. Recently, the Eastern District of New York announced vacancies for four US Magistrate Judge positions, the first time so many opportunities have been simultaneously available since the positions were created. The webinar provided important information and advice for individuals who might be considering a career as a Magistrate Judge.

The event featured panelists Hon. Sanket Bulsara, Hon. Peggy Kuo, and Linda Lin. Judge Bulsara was appointed as a Magistrate Judge of EDNY on August 28, 2017, and previously served as Acting General Counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Judge Kuo was appointed on October 9, 2015, and prior to her appointment, she served as the Acting Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Division Criminal Section at the U.S. Department of Justice; litigation counsel at Wilmer Hale, LLP; Chief Hearing Officer at the New York Stock Exchange; and Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel of the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. Linda Lin is the General Counsel of Business Unit Support at QBE North America and a member of the EDNY Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel. Austin D’Souza, Principal Law Clerk to Hon. Faviola A. Soto at the New York Court of Claims and Vice President of Public Relations at SABANY, served as the moderator.

Judge Bulsara and Judge Kuo discussed their responsibilities as Magistrate Judges. They emphasized that though their docket is heavily civil, varying between 400-500 cases per judge, they also play an important role on the criminal side. Magistrate Judges are on criminal duty approximately once every ten weeks, during which they preside over arraignments, initial appearances, and bail hearings. They also conduct jury selection in felony cases. Judge Bulsara noted that his favorite part of being a Magistrate Judge is presiding over naturalization ceremonies and interacting with wonderful colleagues.

Linda Lin described the application process and how potential candidates are evaluated. Members of the Selection Panel independently review the applications and decide on which candidates to interview. Prior to the interview, the panel conducts due diligence and may reach out to references beyond those mentioned in the candidate’s application. The Selection Panel also requests writing samples, preferably those that demonstrate analysis and are centered around advocacy and litigation. Finally, five names are presented to the Board of Judges, who decide whom to appoint as a Magistrate Judge. While reviewing applications, members of the Selection Panel look for the following qualities: scholarship, from academic records to achievements; active practice of the law, including breadth and depth of experience, professional competence, and pro bono and public service activities; knowledge of the court system and recent experience in front of the federal bench; and personal attributes, or judicial temperament.

Judge Kuo advised individuals applying to become a Magistrate Judge to prepare for their interviews by going back and reading their application and writing samples, looking up the biographies of members of the Selection Panel, and reviewing the Rules of Civil Procedure. Judge Bulsara urged candidates to take advantage of the mock interviews offered by AABANY and sit in on proceedings in court.

We thank our panelists for speaking on the program and sharing insightful advice about the process of becoming a United States Magistrate Judge. Thanks also to Austin D’Souza for serving as an excellent moderator. For more information on AABANY’s Judiciary Committee, please see https://www.aabany.org/page/115.

PRESS RELEASE: THE ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK, THE KOREAN AMERICAN LAWYERS ASSOCIATION OF GREATER NEW YORK, THE SOUTH ASIAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK AND THE FILIPINO AMERICAN LAWYERS ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK URGE INCLUSION OF ALL VOICES IN SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOLS LEGISLATION

NEW YORK, June 19, 2019 – The Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”), the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (“KALAGNY”), the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY) and the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (“FALA New York”) condemn the process by which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio formulated his plan to reform admissions to the city’s specialized high schools because he has shut out Asian American leaders and organizations from any meaningful participation.  We believe that any legislation with such wide-ranging impact on all communities should not be permitted to move forward when the process by which it has been advanced to the legislature has been marked by excluding the voices of the Asian American community.

In June 2018, Mayor de Blasio announced his support for New York State Assembly Bill A2173 which calls for eliminating the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), to be replaced by a new selection process.  He did so without seeking any input from the Asian American community or any of the New York Asian American elected officials at the Federal, State, or local levels. We are deeply concerned, because we believe this exclusionary process illustrates how the current debate has largely ignored and dismissed the reality that Asian Americans also face racial discrimination.

Asian Americans currently make up more than 60% of enrollment in the specialized high schools.  Pronouncing that the specialized high schools had a “diversity” problem,” Mayor de Blasio’s rhetoric problematically casts the Asian American populations in these schools as a problem that needs to be fixed and ignores the incredible diversity that exists at the schools.  

In March 2019, the Mayor recognized that his rollout was flawed and that he “wish[es] he had done it better,” promising to meet with Asian American community leaders.  That meeting finally took place three months later, on June 13, with less than a week left in the State legislative session. Even though the Mayor finally apologized to the Asian American community at that meeting, Assembly Bill A2173 continues to move forward in Albany.

We recognize that the proposed elimination of the SHSAT is a divisive issue, even within the Asian American community.  AABANY proudly led public discussions on this issue, hosting a community forum in Flushing in 2014, another forum in Manhattan in 2015 and a documentary film screening about the SHSAT called “Tested” in 2015. AABANY used these opportunities to engage speakers on opposing sides of the debate in an effort to educate the public on the differing viewpoints, including those within the Asian American communities, on SHSAT reforms.   

The Asian American community is not monolithic.  We celebrate both the diversity within the Asian American community and the diversity Asian Americans bring to American society.  We fully support improving access to quality education for all. We are invested in true diversity, one that does not envision a small pie that must be divided among competing groups.  We support building more specialized high schools and the revival of gifted and talented programs in every elementary and middle school. We support city funded SHSAT test prep for any student that wants to take it.

Given the flawed process that produced the Mayor’s plan, we oppose New York State Assembly Bill A2173.  We call upon the Mayor to withdraw his current plan and provide Asian Americans a seat at the table to develop a new plan for the specialized high schools that benefits from having all stakeholders heard and represented in developing legislation on the vital issue of a fair, equitable and diverse public education system for all.

______________________________________________________________

The Asian American Bar Association of New York is a professional membership organization of attorneys concerned with issues affecting the Asian Pacific American community. Incorporated in 1989, AABANY seeks not only to encourage the professional growth of its members but also to advocate for the Asian Pacific American community as a whole. AABANY is a New York regional affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).

The Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY) is a professional membership organization of attorneys and law students engaged with the issues affecting the Korean American community in Greater New York.  Incorporated in 1986, KALAGNY seeks to encourage the professional growth of its members as well as provide legal support for the Korean American community.

Founded in 1996, the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY) is an organization of South Asian attorneys practicing in the New York City metropolitan region. The mission of the SABANY is to enhance the professional development of the South Asian legal community and act as a resource to the South Asian community at large by increasing access to justice, upholding the rule of law and improving our justice system.

FALA New York was formally organized in 2015 in New York as a not-for-profit corporation to represent the interests of New York Filipino American attorneys, judges, law professors, legal professionals, legal assistants or paralegals and law students. The mission of FALA New York is to promote the vibrant Filipino American legal community in New York by connecting Filipino American attorneys in order to share our experiences and expertise and to explore issues, cases and laws that affect the Filipino American community.

###

Additional information about AABANY is available at www.aabany.org

Follow our blog at www.blog.aabany.org

Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aabany

Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aabany

AABANY Co-Sponsors: A Reenactment of Ozawa & Thind

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, AABANY and SABANY co-sponsored a trial reenactment of two Supreme Court cases, Takao Ozawa v. United States (1922), and United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) at the Ceremonial Courtroom in 225 Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn. These cases revolved around the fight of two Asian Americans to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

Takao Ozawa, was born in Japan but moved to the United States at a young age in 1914. He attended the University of California, became a businessman, converted to Christianity, got married and had children in the United States. He sought to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, but his application was denied. His fight for citizenship went all the way to the Supreme Court, where he argued that people of Japanese descent should be classified as “free white persons” under the Naturalization Act of 1906. However, Justice Sutherland, writing for a unanimous Court, held that a person of Japanese descent could not be classified as “white.” In reaching that decision, the court relied on scientific evidence and found that the term “white persons” in the Naturalization Act of 1906 only includes persons of the “Caucasian race.”

Bhagat Singh was born in India and received his bachelor’s degree there before moving to the United States, seeking higher education in 1913. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California and went on to give lectures in metaphysics. He also joined the U.S. Army during World War I and became the first turbaned Sikh man to serve alongside American soldiers. After the war ended, he was honorably discharged and applied for citizenship. His petition for citizenship was granted initially in Oregon, but government attorneys initiated proceedings to have it canceled on the grounds that he was not “white.” His case went to the Supreme Court, where he presented scientific evidence asserting that South Asians, such as himself, were actually of Aryan descent and therefore of the Caucasian race and thus he should be granted citizenship.

However, the Supreme Court held that even though it “may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity … the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today.” The court backtracked on the rationale it used in Ozawa, where it relied on scientific evidence to find that Takao Ozawa could not be classified as Caucasian, and therefore was ineligible for citizenship.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s rulings in Ozawa and Thind, many Asians were stripped of their citizenship retroactively, leading a man named Vaishno Das Bagai to take his own life. He left a note that read: “But now they come and say to me I am no longer an American citizen. What have I made of myself and my children? We cannot exercise our rights, we cannot leave this country. Humility and insults… blockades this way, and bridges burned behind.”

These two Supreme Court decisions are a stain on our great nation’s history. They set the precedent that being an American was not enough, that to be a real American you had to be “white” based on society’s perception of what qualifies as “white” during a given period of time in history.

The reenactment serves as a reminder of the struggles that Asian Americans had to endure in the past, and it highlights why we must continue to strive to create change for the future generations of Asian Americans.

We thank Judge Denny Chin and Kathy Hirata Chin for leading the reenactment program and thank our judicial all-star cast which included: EDNY Chief Judge Hon. Dora Irizarry, Hon. Kiyo Matsumoto, Hon. Pamela Chen, Hon. Peggy Kuo, Hon. Sanket Bulsara, and Hon. Faviola Soto.

Thanks to SABANY for performing this re-enactment. AABANY was proud to be a co-sponsor, presenting 1.5 CLE credits in the Diversity & Inclusion category.