Korean Lawyers' Association Pushes for Judicial Independence and Diversity within the Judiciary in New York

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The Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY) urges the New York County Democratic Committee to form a new judicial screening panel to evaluate Justice Doris Ling-Cohan's qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

The Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY) expresses its disappointment with the New York County Democratic Committee's failure to report out a distinguished Asian-American judge for re-election to the Supreme Court of the State of New York. (http://manhattandemocrats.org/) KALAGNY thanks the New York County Democratic Committee and its Supreme Court judicial screening panel for their service to the Bar, the former of which organized the latter to approve candidates for New York’s Supreme Court. For decades, the New York County Democratic Committee, together with its volunteer panelists, have served an important historic function by identifying qualified jurists, in order to improve the administration of justice. Justice Doris Ling-Cohan is currently a Supreme Court judge serving in the Appellate Term, First Department. She is seeking re-election to the New York State Supreme Court. KALAGNY is saddened to learn that the New York County Democratic Committee's website does not list Justice Ling-Cohan as one of the candidates reported out by its screening panel. Not approving an incumbent judge is a highly unusual and shocking decision for the panel.

KALAGNY urges the Democratic Party to endorse Justice Ling-Cohan to run on its ticket in the upcoming elections, and/or to re-form a new panel to re-evaluate the Justice’s qualifications for serving on the Court. Justice Ling-Cohan is and has been an upstanding member of the legal community for over 30 years. She was first elected to the Civil Court in 1995, becoming the first judge of Asian descent from the district which includes Chinatown. In 2002, Judge Ling-Cohan became the first Asian woman elected to the Supreme Court. In 2014, Justice Ling-Cohan was the first woman of Asian descent to be appointed to New York State’s appellate courts. With more than 40 legal awards to her credit, the Justice was most recently declared a Woman of Distinction by the New York University School of Law and was named an Outstanding Woman Lawyer by the National Law Journal in 2015.

The Justice’s distinguished career should be evaluated more carefully, and with ample opportunity given to the Justice to respond to questions regarding her judicial record. KALAGNY cautions against evaluating a judge’s record based on unsubstantiated claims. In addition, KALAGNY urges the public to carefully evaluate any statements, potentially made in bad faith, about the content of panel discussions regarding Justice Ling-Cohan. This week, the New York Post reported that the panel based its decision upon the alleged slowness with which the Justice handles her caseload. Any statements made by anonymous “sources” about the content of panel discussions cannot be confirmed or substantiated, and should be rejected. This is especially so since the screening panel's rules ("The Procedural Handbook of the Independent Judicial Screening Panel") require that the content of panel discussions be maintained in confidence. Claims about a judge’s docket and judicial record should be substantiated or negated through New York’s Office of Court Administration (OCA), the administrative arm of New York’s court system. KALAGNY's President, Bridgette Y. Ahn, an intellectual property law attorney, reminded the public that "we must take special care to protect sitting judges, such as Justice Ling-Cohan, from the political consequences of making unpopular decisions. Judicial independence is a critical key to maintaining a free and open society, and faith in our legal system."

KALAGNY further urges the public to send support letters or e-mails requesting a new panel to screen the judge to Assemblyman Keith Wright, who is the County Leader of the New York County Democratic Committee. Assemblyman Wright’s mailing address and e-mail address are below.

New York County Democratic Committee
108 West 39 Street, Suite 1201
New York, NY 10018
E-Mail: manhattandems(at)gmail(dot)com

In order to address Justice Ling-Cohan’s application and the importance of judicial independence, various community leaders have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday, September 6, at 1 PM on the steps of New York City’s City Hall.

The Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY) is a professional membership organization of attorneys and law students concerned about 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.

To achieve these goals, KALAGNY provides its members with training and resources useful for professional advancement; expands access by Korean Americans in greater New York to legal services and education; and provides a forum for the expression of opinions concerning social, political, economic, legal and other issues of concern to our members.

To learn more about KALAGNY, visit http://www.kalagny.org or contact Bridgette Y. Ahn, the President of KALAGNY, at kalagny(at)gmail(dot)com

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