AABA Newsletter - November 2017

In this issue:

President's Message
AABA: NAPABA Affiliate of the Year Award Acceptance Speech

Photos from the 2017 NAPABA Convention
AABA Members Share How They Teach Their Kids to Stand Up for Justice
Member Spotlight: Eddie Ahn
Student Corner: Supreme Court to Hear Case over Political Attire at Polling Places
2017 Message from the AABA Law Foundation President: Chris Noma
Profiles of Summer Law Grant Recipients
AABA Law Foundation Scholarship Winner Profile: Tarah Powell-Chen
Event Recap: Working in Fintech
Event Photo Galleries

AABA 2018-19 Board of Director Elections: Open from November 27, 12 p.m. to December 20, 11:59 p.m.
Active members as of November 22, 2017 (except students and non-attorneys) should have received an email with instructions on voting. If you believe you are eligible to vote, but did not receive an email, please check your Spam folder, as some emails have been routed there, or contact the Elections Committee at aabaelections@gmail.com.
Read All Candidate Statements Here

President’s Message: Celebrating Milestones and Preparing for the Road Ahead

By Miriam Kim

AABA President & Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

Nelson Mandela once said that you should “[r]emember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” Those words capture this fall for AABA. Here are three important milestones we are celebrating this month:

  • 1,200+ MembersWe now have over 1,200 paid members. I am grateful that AABA’s commitment to “stand up for justice” and be true to its core values has mobilized more Asian Americans to join our mission this year. If you haven’t renewed your dues, please do so before the New Year!
  • Affiliate of the Year: On November 4, AABA was honored as NAPABA’s Affiliate of the Year. It was rewarding to receive this award at a record-setting Convention filled with Bay Area honorees, including Justice Goodwin Liu, the President’s Award recipient; six Bay Area lawyers honored as Best Lawyers Under 40; Charles Jung and Nassiri & Jung, APA-owned law firm of the year; John Kuo, Partners Network In-House Counsel Diversity Leadership Award; and Pankit Doshi and Daniel Sakaguchi installed as NAPABA President and President-Elect, respectively. Congratulations to all!
  • 100 API General Counsel: On November 29, AABA will co-sponsor a special event to celebrate the important milestone of having 100 Asian American general counsel in the Bay Area. We have met our goal to raise $100,000 in honor of 100 GCs to support the research of “The Portrait Project” regarding Asian Americans in the legal profession. Thank you to all our sponsors!

While we celebrate these milestones, we continue to “prepare for the road ahead.” The need for AABA to fight for justice remains strong. Immigrant rights are at risk, hate crimes and racism are a continuing reality in our communities, and Asian Americans continue to be under-represented in the highest ranks of the legal profession.

As we prepare for the road ahead, I look forward to standing with you and AABA for the sake of justice. I hope to see you at the AABA Holiday Party on November 30 at Bluestem!

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AABA: NAPABA Affiliate of the Year Acceptance Speech
By Miriam Kim

This is a transcript from the 2017 NAPABA Convention, Washington, DC on November 4, 2017. 

I am Miriam Kim, the President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA), and I’m honored to accept this award with AABA past presidents, board members, and committee co-chairs here on stage.  On behalf of AABA’s 1,200 members, we thank NAPABA for honoring AABA as its Affiliate of the Year Award.  If you are an AABA founder or member, please stand to be recognized.

Since its founding 41 years ago, AABA has stood up for justice because we know the dangers of prejudice and we believe in justice and equality for all.  In the early 1980’s, a group of AABA members led by Dale Minami mobilized with others to overturn Fred Korematsu’s conviction.  Today, as we see parallels to past wrongs, we remember Korematsu’s words:  “If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.”

NAPABA members: 

  • If you have the feeling that Asian Pacific Americans are underrepresented in the leadership ranks of your firm, corporation, organization, or the judiciary, speak up.
  • If you feel that an Asian Pacific American or other minority is the victim of a hate crime, please speak up.
  • If you feel that the government is improperly invoking national security to justify executive orders, speak up.

Fred Korematsu was one man from Oakland, California.  We are NAPABA, and we represent the interests of over 50,000 attorneys.  Fellow NAPABA members, if you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.  Thank you.

Picture taken by Cyndie Chang, NAPABA Immediate Past-President.

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Photos from the 2017 NAPABA Convention in Washington, D.C.




AABA Members Share How They Teach Their Kids To Stand Up For Justice

The election was an opportunity for my children to learn how to reflect their values by advocating. After a postcard writing event at our house, my boys helped stamp and mail every postcard but more importantly, they wrote postcards themselves and told their representatives the issues that concerned them the most.

— Dina Wong To, Donor Relations Manager, D-Rev


With two parents who are involved in the community, our kids have grown up at rallies, attending community events, and walking precincts.  We have tried to instill in them the idea that you cannot be a bystander to injustice, you have an affirmative duty to speak up.  Most recently, when a kid from an opposing soccer team made a number of racist comments towards the ref and a teammate, we worked with one of our children to file a formal complaint and push the issue.

— Hon. Victor Hwang, Judge, San Francisco Superior Court

My son, Asher, attended a rally for unity and compassion in Japantown, where the Asian American community joined in solidarity with targeted communities, including Muslim Americans.  Asher was 10 months old at the time, and it was his first political rally.  Asher’s great-grandparents would have been proud—my grandparents were removed from their homes in San Francisco and Los Angeles 75 years ago.

— Darren Teshima, Partner, Orrick


Recently my fourth-grade son told me he was an "Upstander."  He and his best friend saw a new kid at school sitting alone and upset.  The new kid wanted to play basketball.  But a mean kid on the court kept making fun of him in front of everyone else.  So my son and his friend confronted the mean kid, told him to knock it off, then everyone played with the new kid.

One of the ways I've tried to teach my son and daughter to stand up for justice is by meeting with their elementary school classes every month for the past five years as part of Project Cornerstone, a Silicon Valley program where parents and teachers talk about how to be confident "Upstanders" as opposed to bystanders.  Through books, activities, and role-playing, the children learn to stand up for themselves and others in the face of bullies and other problems.  It's heartening to hear when the kids do this at school and on the playground, and even more inspiring to hear how they want to take on a mean world leader.

— Audra Ibarra, Law Office of Audra Ibarra

AABA Membership Spotlight: Eddie H. Ahn 

In October 2017, Eddie, a member of the AABA Public Law Leadership Advisory Council, was appointed by Mayor Edwin M. Lee to the San Francisco Environment Commission, which sets policy for the SF Department of the Environment and its approximately 100 staffers dedicated to sustainability in energy, transportation, building, recycling, jobs, and beyond. 

Eddie is also the executive director of a policy and legal advocacy nonprofit, Brightline Defense, which promotes clean energy and job policies for local, low-income communities.  In addition to advocating for better job creation policies in California, Eddie has worked with multiple jurisdictions and communities in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee. 

Prior to being a nonprofit attorney, Eddie taught art/public speaking workshops as an AmeriCorps member, serving as an after school programmer for youth in Oakland’s Chinatown.  Eddie also serves on the board of Mission Housing Development Corporation, one of the largest affordable housing developers in San Francisco.  Eddie received his J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law and his B.A. from Brown University. 

First job: Cashier for the family liquor store in Dallas, Texas.  I looked way too young to work behind the counter, which amused customers when I insisted on ID.  

What annoys you most? Apathy blended with cynicism

Describe yourself: Raised by immigrant storeowners, I was born in the South, educated in the Northeast, and settled in the West.  I miss the lower cost of food in Texas and Italian-American dishes in New England, but the bread of San Francisco (Tartine, Outerlands, and Marla Bakery, among many others) makes me forget what I’m missing.

Other talent: I enjoy drawing and creating comics.  I’ve hosted four solo art shows launching comic book issues in San Francisco, and I’ve traveled throughout the Bay Area, Toronto, and New York to promote the art (which can also be viewed on Instagram and Facebook: @ehacomics)

Favorite food: Tortilla chips with guacamole and margaritas with no salt

Why did you enter law?  I became a lawyer to effect system-level change while being connected to the grassroots.  Our nonprofit effects change with not only our national impact work across the United States but also working closely with community leaders and service providers in San Francisco from Bayview-Hunters Point to South of Market to the Mission District. 

AABA is: an amazing network that supports our community of API attorneys.  I’d love to continue supporting AABA in the future.

If you would like to learn how to join a public board or commission, please contact the AABA Public Law/Public Service Committee co-chairs.

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Supreme Court to Hear Case over Political Attire at Polling Places
By Philip J. Tacason
3L at University of California, Hastings College of the Law

The United States Supreme Court began a new term last month and the Justices face a blockbuster docket.  Major issues this term include free speech, religious freedom, and digital privacy. 

Earlier this month, the Justices agreed to add yet another free-speech case to its docket.  The case, Minnesota Voters’ Alliance v. Mansky (16-1435), involves a challenge to a Minnesota state law which bans political t-shirts and buttons from polling places. 

Minnesota Statute § 211B.11 prohibits wearing a “political badge, political button, or other political insignia . . . at or about the polling place on primary or election day.”  Election officials are to instruct anyone wearing political attire to remove or cover it.  If the person refused, the election official should allow the person to vote, but record the person’s name and address for potential civil penalties or misdemeanor prosecution.   

The facts leading to the dispute arose from an incident on Election Day 2010, when Minnesota voter Andrew Cilek arrived at his polling place wearing a Tea Party t-shirt and a “Please I.D. Me” button issued by the conservative group Election Integrity Watch.  Poll workers then temporarily prevented Cilek from casting his ballot. 

Cilek, who is a Tea Party member and the executive director of Minnesota Voters’ Alliance, brought suit in federal district court to challenge Statute § 211B.11 as a facially-overbroad violation of his constitutional right to free speech.   

The district court dismissed the suit, granting summary judgment for defendants.  Plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which affirmed the dismissal. 

Circuit Judge Benton, writing for the majority, reasoned that a polling place is a nonpublic forum, and thus, any restrictions on speech are constitutionally valid if they are “reasonable in light of the purpose which the forum at issue serves.” 

Cilek argued that the ban is unreasonable because the Tea Party is not a political party in Minnesota, nor do its materials relate to anything that was on the ballot. 

The majority rejected the argument, holding that Tea Party apparel is indeed political.  In doing so, the Court adopted a broad definition of what constitutes “political” apparel: “[m]aterial promoting a group with recognizable political values.” 

“In order to ensure a neutral, influence-free polling place,” the Court wrote.  “All political material is banned.” 

The Court further noted that, even if Cilek’s apparel is not election-related, states have “a legitimate interest in maintain[ing] peace, order, and decorum” in polling places and “a compelling interest in ‘protecting voters from confusion and undue influence’ and ‘preserving the integrity of its election process.’”    

The seminal case in this area of law is Burson v. Freeman, 50 U.S. 191 (1992), in which the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Tennessee statute prohibiting campaign posters, signs, or other campaign materials within 100 feet of polling places on election day. 

The holding in Burson, however, applies only to campaign-related materials, and does not extend to the broader spectrum of political speech, as is the case here. 

The Supreme Court will decide on this keystone First Amendment issue sometime in the next year, before the Congressional midterm elections. 

The case is one of several freedom-of-speech disputes the Court has picked up this term.  The nation’s highest court will also review National Institute of Family and Life v. Becerra, 16-114, which involves a challenge to a California law requiring “crisis pregnancy centers” to disclose to its patients that the state offers subsidies for abortion and contraception services. 

In addition, the Justices have agreed to hear Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, 17-21, which posits whether a person who refused to stop talking at a city council meeting can sue for a “retaliatory arrest” in violation of the First Amendment. 

Voting rights have been a hot-button topic in recent years, with the Court taking on issues relating to political gerrymandering, voter-identification laws, and now, free speech at polling places. 

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2017 Message from the AABA Law Foundation President Chris Noma

On behalf of the AABA Law Foundation (ALF), I am making a huge shout out and thanks to all of you who made 2017 a phenomenal year of giving.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank and recognize our incredible major donors:  Raymond L. Ocampo Jr. who donated $10,000 for scholarships and public interest grants, Stuart and Rhoda Hing, who donated $10,000 for scholarships and public interest grants, the Minami, Tamaki, Yamauchi, Kwok & Lee Foundation, which donated $10,000 for the Garrick S. Lew Fellowship, and the Nassiri & Jung Foundation, which donated  $10,000 for a public interest grant.

Because of their generosity which was MATCHED by donations from YOU, our AABA members,  ALF was able to grant an amazing $37,500 in scholarship and $35,000 in public interest grants in 2017 – a landmark achievement.  Listed below are all the recipients of the scholarships and grants that your donations made possible.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And now, please join us in 2018 so we can continue to provide the much needed legal support for our Asian Pacific American community as we look forward to the coming year. 

You can give online, by clicking here or going to http://www.aaba-bay.com/aaba-foundation/donate  If you prefer, you can send a check payable to the AABA Law Foundation and mail to P.O. Box 387, San Francisco, CA 94104.

On behalf of the 2017 Board, thank you for your generosity and support!

Christine Noma, Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean, ALF President

2018 Scholarship and Grant Recipients: 

Ana Duong (Raymond L. Ocampo Jr. Family Scholarship)
Christopher Gordon  (Joe Morozumi Scholarship)
Tarah Powell-Chen  (Asian Pacific American Judges Scholarship).
Wendell Lin (AABA Scholarship)
Christopher R. Gueco  (Garrick S. Lew Fellowship)
Sayuri Takagawa (AABA Summer Grant)
Mengfei Sun (AABA Summer Grant)
Stacy Elizabeth Young (2017 State Bar 3L Diversity Scholarship)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus - $5,000 from Raymond L. Ocampo Jr., matched by $5,000 from ALF.
Korean Community Center East Bay – Immigration Integration Program: $10,000 from Nassiri & Jung Foundation, matched by $10,000 from ALF.
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA): $5,000 funded by Munger Tolles & Olson LLP and ALF.

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Profiles of Summer Grant Winners

AABA offers grants to help fund qualified summer law clerks to work on projects that provide free legal services to the Asian American community. Applicants must be sponsored by a nonprofit legal organization that has agreed to supervise the applicant for the summer for at least 10 weeks. The grant is funded by the AABA Law Foundation through the Community Services Committee of AABA. 


Mengfei Sun, 2L, Berkeley Law
During her 1L year, Mengfei Sun volunteered at Asian Law Caucus' Workers' Rights Clinic to help with client intakes, identify issues with supervising attorney, and convey advice and referrals. Mengfei continued to work for the ALC Workers Rights Clinic as a 2017 AABA Law Student Summer Grant recipient. She has also volunteered at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, where she interviewed clients and helped them prepare applications for affirmative asylum. She is an active member of Berkeley's Asian American Law Journal and helped plan the annual symposium for 2017. 

Sayuri Takagawa, 2L, UC Hastings College of Law
After finishing her undergraduate education at UC Berkeley in 2013, Sayuri Takagawa remained in the Bay Area to compete internationally with her Tae Kwon Do team and address domestic human trafficking. Her previous professional work has been in the nonprofit industry addressing CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children). As a former advocate and resource provider for exploited systems involved youth and group home manager, Sayuri decided to pursue her JD at UC Hastings College of the Law to be a more zealous advocate for vulnerable populations who face discrimination. As a recipient of the 2017 AABA Law Student Summer Grant, Sayuri worked in the Alameda County Public Defender's Office.  She hopes to continue working in the public interest sector, and envisions working in policy to elevate the Asian American political voice as well as create policies that would help facilitate a more sustainable and equitable society for all.

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2017 Asian Pacific American Judges' Scholarship Winner: Tarah Powell-Chen
This was adapted from the personal statement Tarah submitted with her scholarship application.

Several months before college, I began noticing rapid heartbeats and chest pains. I brushed it off, until the day I collapsed. Doctors suspected I had a heart abnormality, but they could not diagnose it at first. At the age of seventeen, I sought the care of my first cardiologist.

My life turned into a struggle in every sense of the word -- to not let the paralyzing fear of an unknown diagnosis cloud the spirit of my youth; to deal with painful symptoms; to commute long distances for appointments, tests, and hospitalization; and to meet my rigorous course requirements at UC Davis. After two years and four cardiologists, I was finally diagnosed with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia.   

This condition is normally difficult to diagnose, but the process also was so lengthy because of roadblocks put up by my health insurance company. We had to fight for coverage for every hospital admission, test, or treatment, adding to the stress of my illness and to the time it took to diagnose the life-threatening condition. That was how, as a teenager, I became aware of the impact our health care system has on people’s lives. I realized that if I was lucky enough to have full coverage through my parents and it was so hard for me, how were those people without medical insurance surviving? It was during this time fighting for my health that I became interested in the legal system and how it impacts health care.

Despite the many difficulties I encountered, I was fortunate enough to discover my diagnosis in time to seek proper care. However, through my personal and professional experience, I came to realize how many people are not getting the help they need, especially the elderly. Until I spent hour after hour in waiting rooms with elderly heart patients, and learned their intimate stories of victims of malpractice and abuse, I did not understand how deeply rooted the problems with our health care system was.

During the summer after my 1L year, I interned for Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS), which provides free legal assistance to seniors in Alameda County. Once again, I was faced with the head-on realization that the elderly are one of the most vulnerable groups of people with the least amount of legal resources. This is because a majority of the elderly population in the Bay Area is also disabled and/or has a language barrier, and is therefore inhibited from seeking proper legal advice. At LAS I primarily worked with elderly Asian immigrants who did not speak English. Often times, my clients were being fined thousands of dollars or had their public benefits completely taken away simply because they did not understand the forms they were signing, or the mail they were receiving. Many of my clients were disabled and relied on this small amount of money and medical insurance to survive. Often times, they were unable to refill necessary prescriptions or go to the doctor, all because of what seemed like punishment for not being able understand the American system of medical benefits. 

These are people, like my parents, who left their respective native countries of Asia for a better life in the United States. Many have survived wars, political persecution, and social and economic oppression, only to come to the United States to be left out in the cold and let down by our system. As a first generation Chinese-American it’s difficult to talk to clients from my own community that are desperate and frustrated because they are unable navigate a system that they depend upon. That frustration has become my fuel. It’s the same fuel that has propelled me since I was a nameless face in a hospital bed, and the same struggles I have continued to face throughout my law school career due to a flawed system. I will work as an advocate for those who have no one willing to help them. My goal is to ensure that the Bay Area elderly Asian community seeking medical attention receives and can afford the proper care that they deserve.

I know what it is like to struggle physically, emotionally, and financially. I also know what it is like to work hard to overcome struggles. My personal experience makes me passionate, and will motivate me to advocate to the best of my abilities for this marginalized group within my community.

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Event Recap: Working in Fintech
By Alex Kwok, AABA Member

On September 14, 2017, the AABA In-House Committee held its “Working in Fintech” event at Fenwick & West’s San Francisco headquarters. Moderated by Sandy Liu (Legal Counsel – Yapstone), the well-attended event provided an opportunity for attendees to network and learn more about the life of an in-house attorney at a Fintech company. Featured speakers Katherine McLain (Corporate Counsel – Stripe), Jobe Danganan (General Counsel – Sindeo), and Marius Domokos (FLEX by Fenwick, previously General Counsel of Revel) shared their stories and offered tips on how to enter the industry, explained the work done by Fintech attorneys, and answered questions about the legal challenges unique to the Fintech industry. The AABA In-House Committee thanks all those who attended and looks forward to hosting future events for our members!



Photos taken by Stephanie Yee

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