NAPABA's Reply to 80-20 of July 7, 2009
July 7, 2009
Dr. S.B. Woo
Acting Executive Director
80-20 PAC, Inc.
P.O. Box 22509
Philadelphia, PA 19110
Dear Dr. Woo:
I write in response to your latest letter of July 1, in which you make clear that you do not
intend to identify and recommend any specific individuals for appointment to the federal
bench. Instead, you simply want NAPABA to join 80-20 in writing generic letters to U.S.
Senators “urging them to recommend more Asian Am. jurists as District Court judges.”
Given the tone of your recent correspondence with NAPABA, I wish to provide a more
extended response. I ask that you circulate this letter, along with my earlier letter of July 1,
to the 80-20 leadership and membership, so that each of them can have a full and complete
understanding of NAPABA’s efforts in this area, untainted by your characterizations.
* * *
If I was wrong in assuming that your proposed letter to U.S. Senators would recommend
specific individuals for appointment to the federal bench, it is only because it has long been
apparent to us that that is the only kind of letter that will have even a remote chance of
making any impact on the process.
By contrast, letters generically requesting “more” Asian Pacific American appointments to
the federal judiciary are routinely ignored by the relevant officials. And the reason is
obvious: Although such letters may be therapeutic to the sender, they are utterly useless to
the recipient—because they put forth no specific agenda items, no actionable information, no
assistance in furthering the process.
In fact, the ineffectiveness of generic letters is well illustrated by the meeting you mention
with Cassandra Butts, Deputy Counsel to the President—a meeting that was also attended by
representatives of NAPABA and the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), among others.
You have repeatedly touted your 80-20 questionnaire with us here. But as you may recall
from the meeting, Ms. Butts indicated that she had never heard of the 80-20 questionnaire.*
(See 80-20's comment at the bottom of this letter.)
(Her response is entirely understandable, by the way. As you may know, Presidential
campaigns routinely receive hundreds if not thousands of such questionnaires from various
organizations. In the vast majority of circumstances, the questionnaire has no impact on the
candidate once elected to office, especially when the questionnaire contains generic
statements rather than specific deliverables. Questionnaires are typically handled by
campaign staff—and are not shared later with those who are actually involved in the decision
One measure of whether an organization is having an actual impact on the process is whether
or not relevant officials affirmatively seek out your input and advice in order to help them
with the process (as opposed to simply accepting the group’s repeated invitations for a
meeting). Both before and after the meeting you mention, NAPABA and AAJC has had
extensive contacts, both with Ms. Butts and other federal officials—in response to their
solicitations for our assistance—where we have suggested specific candidates for their
consideration. We believe that discussions such as these will continue to bear fruit over the
next several months—consistent with our experiences and successful track record in the past.
* * *
Let me be clear: NAPABA recognizes that, in recent months, 80-20 has taken certain steps
to communicate with the general public about the desire for more Asian Pacific American
appointments to the federal bench. But if 80-20 decides that it also wants to play a role in the
judicial appointment process itself—an altogether different proposition, and one in which 80-
20 has not undertaken discernible efforts in the past—NAPABA is happy to make
suggestions as to what 80-20 can do in the future to play a constructive role (and I do so at
the close of this letter).
It is worth observing, however, that every organization first needs to determine what its real
purpose is, and what its strengths and weaknesses are. Some organizations focus on making
progress on issues—while others focus more on self-promotion and serving the interests of
NAPABA is strongly in the former category, and is accordingly perceived as such by
relevant officials. It is because we are in this former category that we have worked so hard to
determine what kinds of efforts will actually have an impact—versus what kinds of efforts
will have none. And based on our past research and political contacts, we are confident that
letters that only ask U.S. Senators generically to support more Asian Pacific Americans on
the bench, as you suggest, will have no real impact.
This is not idle speculation on our part. Over the past several years, NAPABA has consulted
with key players in the White House and the Senate. In fact, some of our most active
NAPABA members and friends in our judicial appointment efforts have extensive records of
service with the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, including several chief
counsels to Senate Judiciary Committee members who are intimately familiar with the
judicial selection process in various states nationwide. The advice we have received has been
uniformly consistent: Only specific recommendations of particular individuals who are
qualified, ready, and interested will have any impact. Generic requests will be ignored.
NAPABA’s efforts to appoint Asian Pacific Americans to the federal bench have been
successful to date—and will be even more successful in the future—precisely because our
efforts are comprehensive. In addition to identifying specific qualified candidates and
meeting with officials to propose their appointment, NAPABA also helps individuals who are
interested in serving on the bench by working with them on their applications, preparing
them for interviews with White House officials, Senators, and other screening committees,
and marshaling a coalition of supporters across the community. We have appeared at
numerous Senate confirmation hearings and been recognized repeatedly for our efforts by
relevant officials. You are welcome to contact any of the currently serving Asian Pacific
American federal judges across the country, as well as the countless U.S. Senators and their
staffs with whom we have worked to support and secure their appointments—we are
confident that you will hear precisely the same message from each of them.
* * *
If, despite our guidance, 80-20 is interested in sending a generic letter on its own, we just
want you to be aware that, based on our experience and the advice we’ve received, your letter
will likely be referred to a legislative correspondent for a token response—and will not result
in any beneficial action being taken by anyone.
Perhaps that does not matter to you. You may decide that it is enough that a generic letter
will serve 80-20’s own institutional interests alone, by giving you something to wave around
to your membership. But make no mistake: It will not further the cause you claim to
support. The numerous officials we’ve spoken with all understand the importance of the
issue. They don’t need to be reminded of it. What they need is help identifying actual
individuals who are ready for appointment.
Incidentally, it is deeply unfair—if not offensive—for anyone to suggest that NAPABA’s
efforts over the past 20 years have had little or no impact. Previous NAPABA efforts have
resulted in the appointments of A. Wallace Tashima (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit), Denny Chin (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York), George H.
King (U.S. District Court for the Central District of California), Anthony W. Ishii (U.S.
District Court for the Eastern District of California), Susan Oki Mollway (U.S. District Court
for the District of Hawaii), Dana Makoto Sabraw (U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of California), George H. Wu (U.S. District Court for the Central District of
California), Amul R. Thapar (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky), and
Kiyo A. Matsumoto (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York).
In addition, NAPABA continues to identify new judicial candidates—as well as to work on
behalf of countless others who were not ultimately appointed in the past (including those who
were nominated but not ultimately confirmed by the Senate, as well as those who were not
nominated the last time around), but who we have been assured are leading candidates for the
next vacancy in their respective jurisdictions, due in large part to NAPABA’s strong support
Over the next six months, we fully anticipate that our extensive efforts will continue to bear
fruit, resulting in the nominations of Asian Pacific Americans to the federal bench. (Due to
the confidential and sensitive nature of our on-going discussions with relevant White House
and Senate officials, we unfortunately cannot comment further.) As we have stated in earlier
correspondence to you, we have had numerous meetings since the election with relevant
decisionmakers. As part of our comprehensive strategy related to that process, NAPABA has
had substantive discussions with over 40 potential candidates, and sent recommendation
letters for over 20 of them. Your suggestion that 80-20 may need to “go it alone” ignores the
prior efforts of NAPABA and like-minded organizations such as AAJC. Obviously, the goal
of all of our organizations is to effect positive change for the Asian Pacific American
community. Minimizing the efforts of sister organizations is counter-productive and
distracting to our larger goals. We would also note that, since November, our efforts have
resulted in the announcements of a number of appointments of Asian Pacific American
lawyers to positions of significant responsibility in the federal government.
* * *
To be frank, our time is limited. The task of identifying and supporting good candidates is an
extremely intensive process. We are grateful for our strong network of volunteer attorneys,
developed over two decades, who are willing to use their talents and precious time to help us
in this important cause. And we would prefer to devote our energies focused on that process.
Nevertheless, we have taken this time to correspond with you, in such great detail, in the
hope that 80-20 will decide to work with NAPABA constructively in these efforts, just as we
have with numerous Asian Pacific American organizations across the nation over the past
Towards that end: You’ve repeatedly mentioned your past involvement in the judicial
appointments process in Delaware. We are unaware of any Asian Pacific American judges
who serve on either the state or federal bench in the State of Delaware. That being said, if
you have come across any Delaware attorneys (or any other attorneys nationwide, for that
matter) who are qualified and ready to serve, and who we are not already in direct contact
with, we would welcome that information. As you may or may not know, there is a current
federal judicial vacancy in Delaware, and another that is anticipated in 2010. I can imagine
no better way for 80-20 to play a role than to help NAPABA identify a qualified and
interested Asian Pacific American attorney who is ready to be considered for the federal
bench in Delaware.
Please let us know if you would like to help us in this cause.
Andrew T. Hahn, Sr.
cc: Helen B. Kim, NAPABA Past President 2007-2008
Phillip F. Shinn, NAPABA Past President 2006-2007
Amy Lin Meyerson, NAPABA Past President 2005-2006
Michael P. Chu, NAPABA Past President 2004-2005
John C. Yang, NAPABA Past President 2003-2004
Ruthe Catolico Ashley, NAPABA Past President 2002-2003
Lisa E. Chang, NAPABA Past President 2001-2002
Howard L. Halm, NAPABA Past President 2000-2001
Laura K. Hong, NAPABA Past President 1999-2000
Peter M. Suzuki, NAPABA Past President 1998-1999
Margaret J. Fujioka, NAPABA Past President 1997-1998
Paul H. Chan, NAPABA Past President 1996-1997
Paul W. Lee, NAPABA Past President 1995-1996
Nancy P. Lee, NAPABA Past President 1994-1995
Brian A. Sun, NAPABA Past President 1993-1994
William C. Hou, NAPABA Past President 1992-1993
Peggy A. Nagae, NAPABA Past President 1991-1992
Harry Gee, Jr., NAPABA Past President 1990-1991
Hoyt H. Zia, NAPABA Past President 1989-1990
* 80-20 note: Although Ms. Butts said that she was not aware of Pres. Obama’s answer to 80-20’s questionnaire, the highest ranking White House Staff present during that meeting, Chris Lu, was certainly aware of it. In addition, the highest ranking official, Vice Pres. Biden was certainly aware of it.
If some NAPABA staff/persons were present at that meeting, they can certainly verify the following:
1) V.P. Biden came into the room, and immediately stepped into the crowd to shake hands with me who represent 80-20 & Tammy Duckworth. After that the V.P. went back to the podium, he spent about 1 minute talking about me. Actually, I was embarrassed with the attention. A couple of days later my wife, Katy, even told the V.P. that I was flattered and embarrassed; and
2) Chris Lu made a bee line to exchange greetings with me, as soon as he has finished his presentation.
80-20 NEVER boasts about such things. We only take pride in getting the job done. But if NAPABA's point is that 80-20 doesn’t know what it is doing in politics, then it may want to re-evaluate.
Let’s not be jealous of each other. Let’s work together or independently to get the job done.