A collective of over 70 law firms and large company law departments in the U.S. has launched a national pro bono initiative to help victims of anti-Asian hate and prevent further incidents of violence.
The Alliance for Asian American Justice, or simply the Alliance, will coordinate and use pro bono resources to support victims in obtaining legal remedies -- from providing legal counsel to working with police in keeping perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
Nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents have been reported between March 2020 and February 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that monitors the phenomenon. More recently, police data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino showed an increase of 169% in anti-Asian hate crimes in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period last year.
Lawmakers, police and community members have proposed and/or deployed measures to address the problem. Despite these actions, attacks have only persisted and become more violent in recent weeks.
“Given the well-documented spike, we were frustrated that there are not enough legal actions being commenced to pursue perpetrators of anti-Asian violence,” said Wilson Chu, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery and a member of the Alliance’s Board of Directors. “We were also frustrated 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.”
Chu told NextShark that by effectively pulling together the world’s largest “law firm” against anti-Asian hate, the Alliance hopes to send “the loud and clear message that attacks against APAs will not be ‘consequence-free.’” He pointed out that a criminal case is not always enough, and that is when civil lawsuits and other legal remedies can come into play.
Some believe that anti-Asian hate is vastly underreported. Chu said APAs are too often seen as silent victims reluctant to pursue justice for themselves.
“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 (especially against attackers with something to lose) and liaise with law enforcement to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable,” Chu told NextShark.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and other frontline legal and community organizations will perform the initial intake with victims of anti-Asian hate and refer them to the Alliance. Chu says the group has enough resources to pursue its goal.
“With over 70 Alliance firms, we have millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars of pro bono legal firepower ready, willing, and able to fight the good fight. 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,” he said.
Aside from Chu, the Alliance’s Board of Directors includes Don H. Liu, Tai Park (Partner, White & Case), Brian A. Sun (Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright) and Debra Wong Yang (Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher). The group is co-chaired by Debra Wong Yang and Tai Park.
Feature Image via Getty
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