AABA Newsletter - February 2018

President's Message

Dear AABA family,

As the 2018 President, I'm excited to kick off the year with our theme: Better Together, Stronger United. For over 40 years, AABA has created opportunities for our APA attorneys, judges, students and others to connect, advocate, and work together to better the law profession and our community. We have stood as a voice for the voiceless, advanced our colleagues within the profession, grown our base to over 1,300 members, and so much more because we are united.

To celebrate our accomplishments and continue building connections, I hope to see you all at our 42nd Annual Gala: Better Together, Stronger United on March 22 at the Bently Reserve, San Francisco. At the Gala, we will be recognizing the leaders of our community, including the late Mayor Ed Lee and our law students.  There will be delicious food, drink, activities, dancing, and of course, I look forward to seeing everyone in their gowns and tuxedos to celebrate all that we have achieved together. The Gala will sell out, so if your firm or company is interested in sponsoring, please contact me soon. You can also purchase tickets here.

Most importantly, I congratulate Miriam Kim on a stellar 2017 Presidency. She rallied AABA to stand up for justice when many in this country needed it and built an AABA that was recognized nationally by NAPABA. I'm proud to have stood with Miriam and of all we have stood for. I can't wait to see what else we can accomplish together. This year, let's keep working together. Let's keep advocating for civil rights and our community. Let's stay united for a better future for the next generation!

In unity,
David Tsai

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Outgoing President’s Message: Starting and Ending with Lessons from Mayor Ed Lee

By Miriam Kim

Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

Seven years ago, I joined the AABA Board just days before the birth of my second son.  I almost missed the installation dinner because of early contractions, but I am so glad that I drove to Chinatown that night. Mayor Ed Lee, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco, was our keynote speaker, and his words that night reflect the values that have guided me as an AABA officer and director.

L to R: Miriam Kim (then-new AABA Director), Mayor Ed Lee, Kim Coates (Munger, Tolles & Olson), Elizabeth Kim (Munger, Tolles & Olson)

We Have a Special Privilege:  Mayor Lee reminded us that as attorneys, “we have a special privilege.”  I decided to become a lawyer after seeing Angela Oh speak on behalf of the Korean American community in the wake of the civil uprising in Los Angeles in 1992.  While my day job primarily involves protecting the trade secrets of my corporate clients, it has been an honor to use my “special privilege” to lead AABA in its effort to “Stand Up for Justice” in the face of significant civil rights challenges this past year.

Give Back to Your Community:  Mayor Lee encouraged AABA members to volunteer and give back.  He reminded us that having a law degree is “invaluable for building your community.”  This past year, AABA continued its efforts to give back and build our community.  Among other things, AABA awarded over $70,000 in scholarships and public interest grants; continued its award-winning monthly Pro Bono Clinic in San Francisco and Oakland; celebrated the milestone of over 100 Asian American general counsel in the Bay Area by raising over $100,000 to fund important research on Asian Americans in the law; and started a General Counsel Fellowship Program in order to expand the GC ranks.  Because of these initiatives and so many others, AABA was honored as NAPABA’s Affiliate of the Year.

Thank Those Who Have Come Before Us:  Less than two months into his new position, Mayor Lee told us that “[t]he history of this appointment was in the making for the last 160 years.  We must appreciate all the sacrifices of the generations and generations before us.”  This past year, AABA used several educational programs, including a reenactment of the trial of Minoru Yasui, to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us.  Thank you to the AABA leaders who paved the way for me.  There are so many of you, but I’ll mention just a few: Hon. Margaret Fujioka persuaded me that I could balance the AABA presidency with my responsibilities as a mom and litigation partner; Dale Minami showed me how to build coalitions for the sake of justice; Raymond L. Ocampo Jr. inspired me with his generosity to the AABA Law Foundation; and Bay Area Asian American General Counsel (BAAAGC) co-founders John Kuo, Andrew Kim, and Julian Ong used their star power to help make the 100 GC event and GC Fellowship Program a reality.

Mayor Lee also told us that night that he felt “excited, thankful, and grateful” to serve.  As I step down from the AABA Board, I share that sentiment. I’m excited for all that AABA will do in the coming years, thankful for your continued friendship, and grateful to have served as AABA president.

You can read more about Mayor Ed Lee’s keynote speech at the 2011 AABA Annual Dinner in the March 2011 AABA Newsletter.

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Election Results: 2018 AABA Officers and Directors-At-Large

2018 Elected/Appointed Directors-at-Large:

Marie Ma
Nathalie Le Ngoc
John B. Lough Jr.
Jason Yee

Thank you to all those who voted!

2018 Board being sworn in by Judge Stuart Hing at the January board meeting

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2018 Committee Co-Chairs

Civil Rights
Michael Chang
Katherine Chu
Theresa Zhen

Community Services
Stephen Chong
Pamela Chung
Rebecca Tseng
Darryl Woo

Anna Chang
Mary Nguyen
Michael Nguyen
Patty Tsai

LaurieBeth Bugawan
Sandy Liu
Vice Chair: Gabe Lau

Alice Liu Jensen
Catherine Lui
Mark Punzalan

Law Students
Tar Rakhra
Erin Park
Philip Tacason Jr.

Amanda Hamilton
Elizabeth Kim
Francis Yang
Vice Chair: Michael Nguyen

Jennifer Choi
Kristen Chui
Jin Im

Elizabeth Castillo
Lenny Huang
Catherine Ngo


Kathryn Aoki
Candice Shih

Professional Development
Kelly Craven
Aseem Gupta
Irene Yang

Public Law / Public Interest
Kimberly Chin
Keith Fong
Amit Kurlekar

Post Practice
Michael Ng

Public Law Leadership Advisory Committee
Danny Wan
Carin Fujisaki
Vice Chair: Minming Wu

Joshua Chang
Gina Tsai
Elvin Vu
Adonica Wada

Solo & Small Firms
Alison Tsao
Paul Lee
Kei Zushi

Mandy Chan
Merry Jean Chan
Jessica Moy
Vice Chair: Christine Start

2018 Gala Planning Committee
Elizabeth Castillo
Tina Hsu
Catherine Ngo

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Memories of Mayor Ed Lee
Edited By Candice Shih
Co-Chair of AABA’s Newsletter Committee

Mayor Ed Lee, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco, unexpectedly passed away on December 12, 2017.  AABA members shared their memories of Mayor Lee as a lawyer, mayor, and public servant.

I visited Ed when the Asian Law Caucus opened its first San Francisco office on Waverly Place in Chinatown.  Lots of garbage strewn around, vermin, and freezing cold.  One lonely attorney sitting behind a desk grinning because he was doing what he loved - fighting for social justice.
- Dale Minami, Minami Tamaki LLP

Mayor Lee's last official act was to accept the “Comfort Women” Memorial as a public and official San Francisco “Comfort Women” Memorial.  Mayor Lee had the courage to do the right thing despite the Osaka mayor’s threat to cut off 60 years of sister city relationship with SF.  We will dearly miss him.
- Judge Lillian Sing, ret. and Judge Julie Tang, ret.

Ed’s legacy goes so far beyond becoming the first Chinese American Mayor.  Ed was a true community lawyer.  What people don’t know is that Ed’s early community lawyering cases in Chinatown gave rise to powerful grassroots organizations like Ping Yuen Resident Improvement Association and Community Tenants Association (CTA).  Today, CTA is a self-governed 501(c)(4) that is 1700+ members strong.  That impact will last for decades.
- Malcolm Yeung, Chinatown Community Development Center

Ed’s selfless dedication to the cause of social justice was apparent from the day I met first him in law school.  So was his generous spirit, affable and down-to-earth persona, crafty sense of humor, and patented mustache.  From his days as a fledgling lawyer at the Asian Law Caucus to his rise to Mayor, the core and essence of Ed Lee and his deep and sincere care for others never changed.
- Judge Edward Chen, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California

I first met Ed in ’87 when I was a law clerk for the Asian Law Caucus, and got to know him during the weekly ALC basketball pick-up games.  I think he liked having me on the court because I was the only one shorter than him.  I was fortunate to remain in his orbit over the years, working on projects like the Caucus Classic and SF Mayor’s Cup charity golf tournaments. He taught me that fundraising for the fight was an important part of the battle — not all of us can be civil rights lawyers, but we can all write a check or volunteer for organizations that work towards equality and social justice.
- Lisa Oyama, Esq.

What is well-known is that Ed was an accomplished and beloved Mayor.  What is not well-known is his role in pioneering a new model of the lawyer as a community organizer, thereby empowering the underserved, and being a catalyst for change.  Ed was a year behind me at Berkeley and it was immediately obvious that he was precisely the kind of advocate that the public needed.  Let it be remembered that Ed devoted 12 formative years at the Asian Law Caucus representing the exploited and powerless, which forged his skills and values, and which in turn, informed his actions as Mayor.
- Don Tamaki, Minami Tamaki LLP

I met Ed Lee years before we served together as City Hall officials.  He was the go-to guy when you needed something done in the byzantine city bureaucracy — the guy who would deliver results quietly, with a smile and without ego.  These were qualities I looked for in a political partner — qualities we yearn for in our public servants.  While history will remember him for breaking the bamboo ceiling to become San Francisco's first Chinese American mayor, I will remember him for traits so often missing in today's politics - civility, kindness, decency, and a corny sense of humor.
- Hon. David Chiu, California State Assembly

A tribute to Mayor Ed Lee will be featured at the 42nd Annual Gala on March 22.  If you have photos or videos to submit of the late Mayor, please send in to Tina at info@aaba-bay.com.

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AABA Membership Spotlight: Hoyt H. Zia

Hoyt is the first person to have achieved the hat trick of being an Asian bar president at the local, state and national level: he was the tenth president of AABA in 1986, president of the statewide Asian bar (then known as Asian Pacific Bar of California) in 1987, and the founding president of NAPABA in 1988. He and fellow retiree Jane Gorai co-chaired AABA’s Post Practice Committee during its initial year in 2017.

He recently retired after nine years as the general counsel of Hawaiian Airlines, concluding a long career spent mostly in-house and Millennial-like in terms of how often he changed jobs.  His first lawyer job was as a litigator with Bronson Bronson & McKinnon in San Francisco and subsequently included stints in-house with Motorola, Inc. in Silicon Valley, Amfac/JMB Hawaii in Honolulu, the Clinton Administration in DC as Chief Counsel for Export Administration, the executive director of a telecommunications NGO in Honolulu, and the publisher of HawaiiBusiness, a glossy monthly magazine.

Most notably, he is the brother of Asian icon Helen Zia with whom he and four other siblings, whose parents were immigrants from Shanghai, China, grew up in New Jersey just outside Philly.  He attended Dartmouth College, served in the Marines, and then went to law school at UCLA.  He is married to former AABA and Korematsu Coram Nobis team member Leigh-Ann Miyasato, a Hawaii girl (which explains why they ended up in Honolulu from San Francisco).  They have two kids, Emily (an AABA member) and Rory.

First Job: Like many immigrants, my father had a small business that he operated out of the house I grew up in, and I along with my Mom and siblings helped out in it as soon as we were old enough to be useful.  My first jobs outside the home while I was in high school were making deliveries for a local drug store and being a lifeguard at a community pool.

Why did you enter the law?  I went to law school because I had no other skills, talents or passions which I could use to make a living.  I had a vague notion, too, that I could help people as a lawyer though as my career indicates I mostly helped corporations.  Fortunately, as a young lawyer I fell in with a crowd of Asian lawyers like Dale Minami, Michael Lee, Garrick Lew, Don Tamaki and Judge Ed Chen who were passionate about social justice and serving the Asian community, and with them and a host of others I was able to scratch that itch. 

What annoys you most?  Anyone who gets in my way, particularly when I’m driving.

Reflections on retirement:  Probably the most challenging endeavor I’ve ever taken on.  To be clear, the only thing I’ve retired from is getting a paycheck; I have more demands on my time now than when I was working—not that I’m complaining because it’s what I wanted.  When we moved from San Francisco to Honolulu in the early 90’s, it was because we wanted to raise our kids near family.  I always wanted to return to the Bay Area, and being retired affords me the opportunity to split my time between Honolulu and the Bay Area.  I am currently spending most of my time serving on nonprofit boards, including the Consuelo Foundation which serves at risk children and families in the Philippines and Hawaii, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation which is building the light rail across Oahu, and the Chinese Historical Society of America here in San Francisco for which I am also board president.  The real challenge, however, is searching at this stage in my life for the most personally fulfilling way to meaningfully make a positive difference in the world.  That search continues, though in the near term plugging somehow into the movement to resist and counter the forces that now threaten our country’s democracy might be it.

AABA is:  AABA and the Asian bar generally has been one of the most important and consistent influences on my life.  I met my wife Leigh-Ann and our best, closest and life-long friends through the Asian bar; for me, as we say in Hawaii, it’s been ohana or family.  The values we shared as Asian lawyers remained constant throughout the years and continue to be the glue that binds us.

I first joined AABA in 1981, and as I look back at the Asian bar since then I marvel at the changes in it, both in its numbers and its influence.  Back then, the number of Asian lawyers who were partners in major law firms nationally could be counted on the fingers of one hand, if that.  When NAPABA began in 1988, we claimed a membership of 5,000 which we achieved by adopting, unbeknownst to them, the entire membership of the Hawaii State Bar; today, according to NAPABA there are 50,000 Asian lawyers across the country.  Over the past 35 years the success of Asians in the law as measured by the number of Asian judges, law professors, law firm partners and corporate GCs there are has been phenomenal; but to me, the most satisfying indicator of success is the number of young Asian lawyers who continue to believe in serving the community and who do so through the Asian bar.

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“A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”
Thomas Jefferson

What the Bill of Rights Means to Me
By Kathy Aoki
Co-Chair of AABA’s Newsletter Committee

Since I was born on December 15, Bill of Rights Day, I was excited when I received a free copy of the Bill of Rights from the Philip Morris Company.  I also received a replica of Congress’s first 12 amendments to the Constitution.  When Congress ratified the amendments, with the exception of the first two, on December 15, 1791, the document would be known as the Bill of Rights.  When I showed my father my copy of the Bill of Rights, he told me to “tear it up.”

I cannot blame my father’s feelings since he and my mother were both among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were uprooted from their homes and detained in internment camps during World War II.  My father felt as an American citizen he had no rights and the Bill of Rights meant nothing to him.

When I read the Bill of Rights, Amendment I, the right to free speech, religion, and press, is the most important one to me.  The freedom to follow different religions and speak freely and the freedom of the press to report stories without censorship are things we should cherish.  President Donald Trump constantly speaks about “fake news,” but this only makes me think he does not want to face reality when he does not hear and read positive things about himself.

To me, the Bill of Rights will always be important.  After Donald Trump took office last year, I felt a feeling of trepidation that has not gone away. Americans have to deal with a travel ban, issues with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), racism, and more divisiveness than I seen in a long time.  I am thankful to our nation’s founders for the Bill of Rights.

What Amendments mean the most to you and why?  Take some time to think about this.  It is always important to stay vigilant in fighting for our rights.

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2017 Raymond L. Ocampo Jr. Family Scholarship Winner Profile: Ana Duong (U.C. Berkeley School of Law, Class of 2019)
This was adapted from the personal statement Ana submitted with her scholarship application.

In college, I learned that people thought of me as a “model minority,” someone who succeeds in life despite overwhelming odds.  I also quickly learned that people thought this of me for no reason other than that I am Asian Pacific Islander (API).  After taking a few Asian American Studies courses, I realized that people’s assumptions about my life perpetuated the model minority myth—a form of positive recognition and praise that silenced and erased those in the API community in need of support.  In other words, it silenced and erased me. 

My parents were Southeast Asian refugees from Vietnam.  They both traveled to America by boat—my father in 1979 and my mother in 1981.  Like the other waves of “boat people,” my parents could only bring the clothes on their backs and started new lives in this country with close to nothing.  My parents didn’t make enough money with their day jobs to support our family, so they started sewing clothes for additional income.  We were far from the model minority. We struggled every day to make ends meet. 

I became a child garment worker when I was six years old.  In a small annex connected to our garage, I would cut ribbon or thread, glue labels together, stack fabric, and turn clothes right side out.  My parents needed the help, and my sisters and I proved that we were capable of providing support. And just like that, my family had started running a sweatshop in our own home.  Somehow I found myself trapped in the system my parents were trying to navigate in order to survive.  I couldn’t understand why my family had to sew unlike other families. 

In college, I finally understood my family’s struggle.  Through the Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies program at Berkeley, I developed a critical understanding of the historical experiences and contemporary issues of the API community.  As a result, I saw my family’s lived experiences as part of the greater struggle for Southeast Asian refugees and other recent immigrant groups.  In the class that influenced me the most directly, “Law in the Asian American Community,” I learned about the connection between law and race and the importance of different perspectives in the legal field. The legal rights of groups are altered depending on the members of the legal profession.  Diversity in the legal profession better serves the needs of diverse communities and ultimately leads to more justice on a greater scale.  This class transformed my understanding of my background into my commitment to diversity and a career in law. 

I further pursued this newfound interest in law and diversity through my undergraduate internships.  As a Voting Rights Intern at the Asian Law Caucus, I learned about the redistricting process and the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.  After the Commission released a draft of redistricting maps that split existing political communities of the Tenderloin neighborhood, I contacted local community organizations to sign a joint letter, which included a map with proposed changes.  The Commission ultimately accepted the proposed changes, and I felt exhilarated to have been part of the process.  I also interned at the Asian Pacific American Student Development Office on campus, which provided a space for me to engage in critical thought and dialogue regarding API issues, to develop programs for API students on campus, and to build partnerships with API student organizations.  During my internship, I chaired the 22nd Annual Asian Pacific Islander Issues Conference.  Through the local community organizations that hosted various conference workshops from API mental health to APIs in government, I learned about the individual movements within the greater movement toward social, economic, and political progress for APIs. 

At Berkeley Law, I am thrilled to continue work dedicated to law and diversity.  I serve as the Community Relations Director of the Coalition for Diversity, which facilitates inter-affinity group dialogue and collaboration and provides relevant programming to promote diversity and inclusion.  For example, I have been working with the Coalition board and For People of Color, Inc. to organize and host the annual spring For People of Color Conference, which provides undergraduate students of color a comprehensive overview of the law school application process.  I am also participating in the Workers’ Rights Clinic, which hosts a free weekly clinic for people who have legal issues related to their employment.  As a Clinic Counselor, I provide free legal advice and resources to low-income and underrepresented members of the local community. With the guidance of licensed attorneys, I have helped clients with issues from wage claims to workers’ compensation. 

Immediately after law school, I would like to use my education and experiences to help those who would not be able to access the justice system without public interest law.  More specifically, I would like to provide legal services and educational programs to low-income and under-resourced API communities.  I aspire to pursue a career that will allow me not only to promote civil rights and social justice but also to increase access to justice, the court system, and free legal services.  With my background and knowledge, I am particularly interested in serving low-income and under-resourced API communities, but I also strongly believe in building cross-cultural coalitions to connect and support all marginalized communities of color that have common struggles and thus similar needs. 

My education and experiences have solidified my desire to pursue a career in public interest law to provide a voice for the silenced and to defend the marginalized rendered invisible.  I am attending law school to become a more effective advocate for the API community.  I used to live in fear that my parents would get arrested, and my family would not have known where to go or what to do had my fear come true.  I felt helpless as a child, but I know I can help others as a lawyer.  I am committed to giving back to my community, and I plan to continue supporting underserved communities throughout my legal education and career.  With my educational background, my hands-on experience organizing and bringing together community groups, I know that I will become a fierce advocate for the API community. 

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What We've Been Up To: Event Recaps

MCLE Mini-Marathon
On January 17, 2018, AABA hosted its annual mini-marathon of specialty CLEs.  

Tracy Kepler (director of the ABA’s Center for Professional Responsibility) and Carla Cheung (Deputy Trial Counsel at the State Bar of California) kicked off the event by diving into attorney ethical obligations when handling client funds.  The duo went over many real-life examples, with Tracy focusing on the ABA’s rules and Carla focusing on California’s rules.  

Michelle Park Chiu (partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP), Catherine Lui (partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP), and Julie Hwang (VP and Deputy General Counsel at Prosper Marketplace) spoke about self-promotion and the importance of conveying one’s personal value to decision-makers.  The three shared their own struggles to overcome internal and external cultural inhibitions to take credit for their accomplishments, developing strategies that were effective and that fit with their own personalities, and their efforts to promote others and to shape public perceptions about how Asians “should” behave.  Stephanie Chan (associate at Orrick) moderated the discussion.  

Yumi Nam (Commercial and Product Counsel at Instacart) and Chris Vickery (Director of Cyber Risk Research at Upguard) led a lively discussion about attorneys' ethical duties with regards to social media and technology use.  The panelists answered many questions from the audience about how to keep client files and other confidential information secure.

Kate Viernes (Clinical Manager of Asian Health Services' Prevention Program) and Cameron Stout (Of Counsel at Thurman Legal) concluded the event with their presentation about de-stigmatizing mental health.  Kate presented an in-depth analysis of the cultural factors that make Asian Americans particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, and Chris shared his own inspiring story about his battle with depression.

Overall, the event was a huge success, drawing approximately 80 attendees.

How to Become a Judge Pro Tem
On Wednesday, January 24, 2018, AABA co-sponsored an event with the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) entitled “How to Become a Pro Tem Judge in San Francisco Superior Court.”  The event took place at San Francisco Superior Court, and the event featured Judge Garrett L. Wong, Judge Roger Chan, Judge Victor Hwang, Adrienne Williams (Training Technician, SF Superior Court), Diana B. Kruze of Morrison Foerster (Pro Tem Judge), Peter Catalonotti of Freeman Mathis & Gary (Pro Tem Judge), and Mark Punzalan of Chan + Punzalan (Co-Chair of AABA’s Judiciary Committee).  The panel detailed the process to becoming a Pro Tem Judge and offered insight into the day-to-day experiences of pro tem judges.  For more information on becoming a pro tem judge with San Francisco Superior, please visit http://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/general-info/temporary-judges

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Event Photo Galleries

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