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Lawyers are now offering pro-bono services to AAPIs to help fight hate crimes. Photo: Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
Lawyers are now offering pro-bono services to AAPIs to help fight hate crimes. Photo: Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

Lawyers join forces to offer pro-bono support to victims of AAPI Hate

The Alliance of Asian American Justice went public with its initiative on April 15 and already has 10 to 12 cases in its pipeline.

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As anti-Asian violence, discrimination and harassment continues to rise across the United States, citizens from multiple sectors of society have stepped up to fight back against the wave of hatred and xenophobia.

Community members have mobilized to spread awareness and provide more safety for those that need it. This includes marches, rallies, vigils, solidarity events, town halls, and free taxi rides for elders. 

AAPI activists have also created mutli-lingual pamphlets aimed at helping AAPIs report hate crimes, published educational videos on TikTok, and launched fundraisers by selling art and tshirts.

Meet @essyli1, a second-generation Korean American who created a booklet in 7 different languages to teach people how to report hate crimes pic.twitter.com/S5dUGCmwKN

Even a 75-year-old survivor of a hate crime, Xiao Zhen Xie, who received nearly $900,000 from a GoFundMe campaign, donated all the money straight back to her community.

Local and federal lawmakers have been working behind the scenes to pass legislation to protect the AAPI community, and well-known celebrities like Ken Jeong and Megan Thee Stallion have donated money to AAPI organizations.

Additionally, corporations such as Facebook and Airbnb have also joined the cause through partnerships, awareness campaigns and donations.

Now, law firms have joined the fight by providing legal help to victims of anti-Asian hate crimes.

A collective of more than 45 law firms and 17 general counsel from Fortune 1000 companies in the U.S. have launched a national pro bono initiative to help victims with legal services and to prevent future incidents of violence.

On Thursday, April 15, the Alliance of Asian American Justice, or simply the Alliance, went public with their new initiative, announcing their efforts to provide “culturally responsive” legal support and advocacy to victims of anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment.

Founding board members include lawyers from McDermott Will & Emery, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, White & Case and Norton Rose Fulbright and a number of other Am Law 200 firms. 

Many advocates believe that instances of anti-Asian hate crimes are still vastly underreported. 

Wilson Chu, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery and a member of the Alliance’s Board of Directors, told NextShark that those in the AAPI community are too often seen as “silent victims” that are reluctant to advocate for themselves and seek justice, and this is the perception that the Alliance is trying to change. 

“We hope to change that perception and give victims the confidence to do what any other American would feel comfortable doing to protect their rights. With language and cultural fluency that APA lawyers uniquely can bring, we help victims seek compensatory and other civil remedies,” Chu said. 

Along with Chu, the Alliance’s Board of Directors includes Don H. Liu of Target, Tai Park of White & Case, Brian A. Sun of Norton Rose Fulbright, and Debra Wong Yang of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. The group will be co-chaired by Park and Yang. 

Chu, along with his fellow board members are disheartened by the lack of legal actions being taken to pursue the many perpetrators of anti-Asian violence. 

Chu also told NextShark that “despite all the torrent of press releases, calls for action and statements of support, there was very little coordinated action towards helping victims and deterring future attacks.”

The initial intake of victims that have experienced anti-Asian hate will be performed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and other community organizations, and then they will refer them to the Alliance. 

Chu went on to explain that the group already has the resources necessary to achieve their goals. 

He said they have millions of dollars of pro bono “legal firepower” set in place to pursue their objectives. 

“Combine that with unprecedented passion to make a difference for the APA community, we have all the resources needed to get to work and otherwise effectively execute on our strategy to stand up for APA victims,” said Chu.

Park said that the initiative will be very impactful because it will break down language and cultural barriers for many elderly, first-generation and immigrants who are hesitant to speak out. 

“Now we will have a coalition so those not able to speak English or navigate the system will have a major avenue to access justice,” Park said. 

Yang, like Park, is a former federal prosecutor, and said there are already 10 to 12 cases in the Alliance pipeline, ranging from people who have been either physically or verbally attacked to people whose neighbors have attempted to force them out of their home due to their ethnicity. 

Chu said that the Alliance aspires to send a loud and clear message that these attacks against AAPIs “will not be consequence-free,” emphasizing that a criminal case is not always enough. 

This is where civil lawsuits and other legal remedies come into play. 

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