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September 13 - "Women X Povery" Social Justice Mixer
Courtesy of Stephanie Yee & John B. Lough Jr.

September 17 - Mentorship Program Kick Off
Courtesy of Stephanie Yee & John B. Lough Jr.

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AABA Newsletter - September 2018

President's Message

Dear AABA Family:

September is certainly a busy time for us all. Summer vacations are over, kids are back in school, and business picks up. It’s important to remember that no matter how busy we are, there is always time to serve others and to help each other. AABA offers many opportunities to give back to the community, whether through service projects, our mentorship program, free legal clinics, or even by service on AABA’s committees.

This month, our Community Services Committee joined the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the California Coastal Commission to do a beach clean up at Crissy Field. It was a powerful reminder of the power of partnership. As our industrious AABA contingent worked side by side with volunteers from hundreds of other organizations statewide, we truly were better together and stronger united. We thank our CSC Co-Chairs Stephen Chong, Pamela Chung, Rebecca Tseng, and Darryl Woo for their leadership.

September also saw the launch of our 2018-2019 Mentorship Program thanks to Co-Chairs Elizabeth Castillo, Lenny Huang, and Catherine Ngo, with a kick off event where over 100 mentees and mentors met for the first time, and started building strong relationships with each other. Our mentorship program is one of the most important ways AABA gives back to our members, especially our law student and new 

As I near the end of my term, I’d like to encourage each of you to become more involved with AABA as a committee co-chair or board member. Elections for AABA board members will take place in November, and committee co-chairs will be appointed in December.Every month, AABA partners with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach to run a pro-bono legal clinic in San Francisco. AABA’s volunteers staff the clinic where low-income Bay Area residents (including many monolingual immigrants) receive free legal information and advice in a number of areas, such as immigration and family law. These free legal clinics are a great way to make an impact and assist communities that typically lack access to legal assistance. They also offer a valuable opportunity for AABA members to give back and make a difference. If you are interested in volunteering at the clinic, please contact the CSC co-chairs for more information about the clinic here.attorney members.  

I want to close by encouraging you to check out our new AABA Member Directory. Here, you can update and share your contact information and practice areas with all AABA members. Please take a moment to log-in and make sure your information is correct. This is a great way to connect with other AABA members. We are better together, and stronger united!

In Unity,

David Tsai
2018 AABA President


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“Women X Poverty” Discussed at AABA’s Social Justice Mixer

By Kathy Aoki
Co-Chair of AABA’s Newsletter Committee

Monica Bannan, Tine Christensen and Erin Scott are making a difference in helping women overcome issues dealing with poverty including being homeless, being survivors of domestic violence, and facing difficulties finding employment. These women were panelists in AABA’s Social Justice Mixer “Women X Poverty” held September 13, 2018 at Farella Braun + Martel LLP in San Francisco presented by AABA’s Civil Rights and Newsletter Committees.

Bannan is an executive product strategist and a board member of Dress for Success- San Francisco. Christensen is the founder of Blossom Project. Scott is the executive director of the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland. The panel was moderated by Katherine Chu, a staff attorney at East Bay Family Defenders and the executive director of Blossom Project. Bannan replaced attorney Pamela Vartabedian who was unable to attend the event.

The panelists all spoke about how being homeless is connected with poverty and other societal issues including domestic violence, systemic sexism, and period poverty. The organizations they represent help make lives better for homeless women in poverty and provide services to help ease poverty situations or help them and their families transition out of poverty.

“I know I cannot change the homeless situation myself,” said Christensen. “But everyone could remember to treat homeless people with respect and a smile. This is will go along way and can make a difference.”

When Bannan began her involvement with Dress for Success-San Francisco she was struck by a woman who was homeless and a heroin addict who slept in her car, had a child taken away from her, and who eventually turned her life around and found a job and had her child returned to her. Dress for Success-San Francisco not only provides clothing for women for job interviews but also provides a network of support so women can achieve economic independence and helps them so they can thrive both professionally and personally.

Christensen, who is a medical social worker, reminded the audience how easy it is to forget how many women cannot afford to buy feminine products, because it is so simple for many of us to afford to pay for these items ourselves. She hopes the Blossom Project is making a difference by giving out hygiene bags which include feminine products. The organization has a variety of programs not only geared to help make lives better for homeless women but is also geared to other vulnerable women such as refugees. Christensen traveled with her husband from Denmark to attend the event.

Scott, who is an attorney, is passionate about her work at the Family Violence Law Center. The Center serves diverse communities in Alameda County where they work on a range of issues from domestic violence to crisis intervention to help both adults and children. Scott would like her Center to receive more funding for the vital work they do to help combat domestic violence and reduce poverty in our society.

Chu works as a staff attorney at East Bay Family Defenders whose mission “is to keep families together and minimize the time children spend in foster care.” She is also the executive director of Blossom Project.

Attendees generously donated feminine products to Blossom Project and professional clothing for Dress for Success-San Francisco. Both organizations expressed much appreciation for the donations.

All the panelists said their organizations appreciate monetary donations, and asked attendees to check their websites, which we have linked above, to explore other ways to contribute and get involved.

Chu and Kathy Aoki, co-chair of AABA’s Newsletter Committee, encouraged attendees to learn more about AABA’s Civil Rights and Newsletter committees and consider getting involved. Check the AABA website for more information.

Kudos to AABA Civil Rights Co-Chairs Katherine Chu, Michael Chang and Theresa Zhen and their committee members; AABA Newsletter Committee members Kathy Aoki, Jason Yee, Stephanie Yee; AABA Operations Director Ezra Denney; Kelly Matayoshi and Farella Braun + Martel LLP; and everyone who helped make the Social Justice Mixer a successful AABA event.

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NAPABA Western Regional Conference: Highlights and Opportunities

By Jiamie Chen

On August 16-17, 2018, members of the Asian Pacific American legal community, as well as other practitioners, speakers and supporters, came together at the NAPABA Western Regional Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, to share insights on timely issues affecting our community and our profession.

The Conference kicked off with a Judicial Reception where judges from the APA community in the Western Region – including The Honorable Benes Z. Aldana, President of the National Judicial College and chief trial judge of the U.S. Coast Guard; Hearing Special Master Soonhee Bailey; United States District Judge Miranda M. Du; the Honorable Chris Lee of the Clark County Justice Court; Senior United States District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew; Clark County District Court Judge Cheryl B. Moss, and Oregon Circuit Court Judge Janelle Wipper – met, mingled, and shared their often trailblazing experiences with attendees.

The Conference continued with panel presentations and discussions on topics ranging from employment issues in the hospitality industry to disparaging speech and the First Amendment. Touching on an emerging practice issue, Matthew Ahn of Oracle and Enoch Liang of LTL Attorneys LLP gave a dynamic presentation on the evolving role of AI in the legal profession. Mr. Ahn and Mr. Liang touched on the developing use of data analytics in, for example, assessing the likelihood of certain litigation outcomes before specific judges and in generating form discovery documents.

The Conference also shined a spotlight on an issue that is difficult, timely, and of particular importance to our community. The attendees watched a screening of the award-winning documentary film on Japanese Internment, “And Then They Came for Us,” which highlighted the dangerous similarities between that dark chapter in American history and the current cultural and legal battles relating to Executive Order 13769, also known as the “Muslim Ban.” The film won the 2018 Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, and features an intimate discussion by George Takei of his family’s experience with internment. To learn more about the film, including to attend a screening or host a screening, please visit:


Immediately following the screening, Karen Korematsu of the Korematsu Institute, Don Tamaki of Minami Tamaki, and Ruthe Ashley of California LAW presented a poignant discussion that drew from both personal experience and collective wisdom. In addition, an FBI Special Agent, a DOJ Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney, a United States Attorneys Office Prosecutor, moderated by NAPABA Policy Director Navdeep Singh, presented guidance on the federal government’s approach to hate crimes. They expressed concern that such crimes are underreported. They also made clear that they provide training to local and state law enforcement on how to identify conduct that amounts to hate crimes and how to handle such conduct. To learn more about this training, please contact your local FBI field office, your local US Attorneys Office, or the DOJ Civil Rights Division.

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AABA Membership Spotlight: Michael Nguyen 

Michael Nguyen is a Deputy District Attorney at the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, where he practices in the preliminary hearing unit. He has tried over 40 jury trials to verdict, in cases ranging from misdemeanors to serious and violent felonies.


Michael currently serves on the Judiciary Selection Committee and was the former Mentorship Chair of the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California. With the ABA, he currently Co-Chairs the Criminal Justice Section Young Lawyers Committee. Michael twice served as Vice-Director of the Diversity & Inclusion Team and member of the National Conferences Team of the ABA Young Lawyers Division. This year, he leads the Diversity Team as its National Director, where he will continue to work with young attorneys across the country to promote and embrace diversity within the profession. 

Michael recently received national recognition as a 2018 On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyer, an award that honors young attorneys "who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and legal and community service." Michael is a past recipient of the Asian Pacific American Judges' Scholarship. He received his B.A. from Harvard and his J.D. from the University of California Hastings, College of the Law.

First job: My first (paid) job was working as an intern with Bay Area Legal Aid in San Jose. That was the summer of my freshmen year in college. But my first real job was working as my dad's assistant. After my parents fled after the Vietnam War, my family eventually settled in Santa Clara, CA, where my dad worked as a repairman. As a child and as a teenager, I grew up working beside him, helping him repair water heaters, refrigerators, and washing machines. Even today when I return home to visit, my dad occasionally recruits me to help out as his part-time assistant. 

Hidden talent: I can do a handstand walk while holding a 20 pound medicine ball between my legs … invaluable skills I learned from Crossfit.

Favorite food: I enjoy eating pretty much everything. But my all-time favorite would be my mom's "canh chua" (Vietnamese sweet and sour catfish soup). Ingredients include tomatoes, mushroom, okra, bean sprouts, and pineapples, and the flavors are the perfect blend of sweet, sour, and savory.

Why did you enter the law: Public service has always been an important part of my life. I wanted to use my law degree to do something meaningful and to make a positive impact in my community. As a prosecutor, I am able to do that. I get to represent my community, to provide a voice for victims of crimes, and to work with a diverse spectrum of the criminal justice system — all with an aim towards achieving justice. I can't think of a more exciting, dynamic, rewarding legal job out there.

Dream job if you could do anything you wanted in the world: I love to travel and to immerse myself in rich, cultural experiences. Doing so has opened my eyes to new communities, ideas, and experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. After college, I spent a year in South Africa working with refugees and asylum seekers affected by xenophobic violence — one of the most powerful, memorable experiences of my life. My ideal job would allow me to travel the world and live as many experiences as possible, while doing work that engages and changes peoples’ lives for the better. 

AABA is _____ (complete the phrase): opportunities for law students and young lawyers in the profession to grow and succeed. As a law student at UC Hastings, I was fortunate to receive the Asian Pacific American Judges' Scholarship from AABA. This award afforded me the opportunity to intern with the District Attorney’s Office in my hometown, and to pursue my goals of becoming a prosecutor.  

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A Night at the Movies with Reasonably Prosperous Asians
By Matthew Ahn

Artist's Representation of how the Author Imagines his Own AbsOn August 14, AABA co-hosted a screening of Crazy Rich Asians with the Asia America MultiTechnology Association. To my relief, the movie did not suck. In fact, I went to see it two more times through the generosity of various law firms that hosted “gold open” screenings as part of their diversity outreach programs. If, like me, you found certain themes in The Joy Luck Club problematic, and thought that Better Luck Tomorrow, which, despite launching the careers of John Cho and Sung Kang, just wasn’t a very good movie, you probably left the theater reasonably satisfied and entertained, maybe even feeling a little empowered, and likely a tad teary-eyed.

But like any cultural artifact subject to unrealistically high expectations, the movie fails to be all things to all people, and occasionally succumbs to its own cultural blind spots. Despite its setting in racially diverse Singapore, Crazy Rich Asians essentially reduces the island’s ethnic Malay and Indian populations to the roles of domestics and security guards. Moreover, for a film that is so self-consciously groundbreaking in its ambitions, Crazy Rich Asians remains surprisingly retrograde in many respects, particularly in its depiction of Asian men. Aside from the blandly agreeable male protagonist Nick Young (played by Henry Golding), sympathetic male characters are few and far between, from the abusive husband who causes female lead Rachel Chu’s (played by Constance Wu, sister of AABA’s own Minming Wu!) mother to flee China, to Pierre Png’s philandering character who fails to be redeemed by his washboard abs, to the pack of jerks played by the actors who are most likely to be recognized by younger Western audiences (The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng, Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O. Yang, and Marco Polo’s Remy Hii). And that list does not even include Ken Jeong’s amusing, but perhaps for the wrong reasons, Goh Wye Mun, who unfortunately is reminiscent of his Mr. Chow character from The Hangover films, and his son in the movie, who regrettably evokes a modern version of Sixteen Candle’s Long Duk Dong. This is further exacerbated by the casting controversy surrounding Henry Golding, which left many to ponder the implications of a character who stands as the paragon of Asian male desirability, but is portrayed by an actor who is half-white. Perhaps Harry Shum Jr.’s chiseled jawline, which makes a brief cameo alongside the rest of the Glee alum during a brief cameo in the film’s credits, will flip the script in the second film of the trilogy.

In the end, though, the film does succeed in both conventional and unexpected ways. For those who have since delved into the lore surrounding the making of the film, it is hard not to be moved by director John M. Chu’s heartfelt letter to Coldplay wherein he explained his complicated relationship with the word “yellow,” and the importance to him in reappropriating the term by making the band’s song a critical part of the emotional wallop the film packs during its climax. Along with that comes the feel good story of USC student Katherine Ho and her spectacular Mandarin cover of Yellow, which has the makings of a fantastic artist’s origin tale. Perhaps most importantly, there was author Kevin Kwan’s refusal to accommodate a prospective film producer’s request to turn Rachel Chu into a white woman (not this time, Scarlett Johansson!), thereby preserving the fundamental Asian American narrative that forms the core of the movie. If nothing else, this should give us hope that the days of sacrificing principles and artistic integrity just for a chance to be seen on the silver screen are over, and that the future of Asian American representation in cinema is firmly within our control.

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