The HABA family got a nice dose of sunshine on June 3rd, 2017 at the annual HABA Picnic. We enjoyed delicious ribs, papaya salad, fruit, noodles, and other mouth-watering picnic food! Many of us realized that kickball was a much harder sport than we remembered in 5th grade. Thank you to everyone who attended, brought something to share, or helped cook food. We look forward to seeing you next year!
Despite the heavy rain and traffic, folks managed to get to Hmong Village to listen to our distinguished speakers discuss courtroom decorum, Rule 20, and specialty courts in Minnesota. Attendees had thoughtful questions about how to address a retired judge, the frustrations with Rule 20, and qualifications for specialty courts in Ramsey County. Attendees had a wonderful opportunity to mingle and learn from many years of experience.
Thank you to all who attended and to our presenters: The Honorable Gary Bastian; Willow Anderson, Esq; and Jack Rice, Esq.
Congratulations to Kristy Yang from the members of the Hmong American Bar Association!
Nation’s second Hmong-American judge is elected in Milwaukee County
Bruce Vielmetti , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published 9:06 p.m. CT April 4, 2017 | Updated 11:01 a.m. CT April 5, 2017
An Oak Creek lawyer who came to America as a child refugee was elected to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Tuesday, becoming only the second Hmong-American jurist in the nation.
Kashoua “Kristy” Yang, of Oak Creek, defeated Scott Wales of Fox Point in the race for an open seat in Branch 47, whose incumbent John Siefert announced last year he would not seek re-election.
Both lawyers were first-time candidates for circuit judge.
Yang, her parents and most of her 10 siblings were gathered at Bounce Milwaukee on the south side to watch returns, and celebrate her win.
“I don’t know that I was confident,” she said, “but I knew what I had to do — reach out to voters — and I felt good about what I was doing.”
The only other Hmong-American judge in the country, Paul Lo, has been on the Merced County Superior Court in California since 2014. He appeared at a fund-raiser for Yang.
Wales, 55, stressed his nearly 30 years of legal experience while Yang, 36, told voters about the hard work and values that helped her rise from a child refugee to running her own law practice.
Yang brought little to no traditional trial court experience to the race, as she’s practiced in family law mediation and Social Security disability and workers’ compensation since graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2009.
Wales’ campaign stressed trial work as a criminal defense attorney, plus his eight years as the part-time municipal judge in Fox Point and his 25 years as a paralegal studies instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College as a huge edge in practical experience.
But Yang brought an inspiring backstory to the race: She came to the United States as a 6-year-old refugee from Laos with her parents. She grew up in Sheboygan with 10 siblings, married young, divorced and worked her way through college as a single mother.
Yang earned a computer science degree with honors from Lakeland College, then worked six years in customer service and supply chain logistics at Kohler, a job that required travel around the United States and abroad before going to law school.
After about 10 years apart, she remarried her ex-husband and moved to the Milwaukee area.
Yang ran a TV spot that featured how she came here at age six with her family from Laos via a refugee camp in Thailand, and the only English she knew was, “Pepsi, please.” She said she got “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from voters about the spot.
Wales’ campaign forced him to publicly talk about a childhood birth defect, Moebius syndrome, that left his face and tongue partially paralyzed, something that led to childhood bullying until extensive work with a therapist helped him speak normally. He said constant questions about why he wasn’t smiling in his campaign photo prompted him to explain his condition, and turn it into a challenge he overcame.
Wales grew up on the North Shore and has practiced law more than 25 years in Wisconsin, mostly in criminal defense, and as the part-time municipal judge in Fox Point, where he lives. Numerous judges, prosecutors and other lawyers endorsed his candidacy.
The 47 circuit judges in Milwaukee County rotate among divisions that hear misdemeanor and felony crimes, family law cases, probate, small claims, general civil and children’s court matters. Judges serve six-year terms and earn about $132,000 annually.
Federal court beat: Number of Hmong attorneys growing in Minnesota
Randy Furst, Star Tribune
Just as the face of Minnesota is changing, so is its legal community.
Chances are you were unaware there are 62 licensed Hmong attorneys in Minnesota.
That’s according to Adam Yang, past president of the Hmong American Bar Association. “I think it’s great,” says Yang. “We are becoming more American.”
Yang, 44, is an attorney in the Hennepin County Public Defenders Office, where he’s been since 2001.
He came to the United States from Laos with his parents and siblings in 1980 when he was about 9. His parents wanted him to do well in school and become a doctor, he says. He got a bachelor of science and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Minnesota and wanted to be a patent lawyer. He went to law school at Hamline University, then got interested in the Neighborhood Justice Center, where he worked before moving on to become an assistant public defender.
He currently represents juveniles and likes the work. “In my opinion I am defending the Constitution,” he says. “We want to make the courts provide due process, make sure their rights are protected.”
Yang guesses that more than half the state’s Hmong attorneys are in private practice. One of them is Nom Fue Thao, 40, who helped revive the Hmong American Bar Association in 2010 and became its president. Thao said his main work is in personal injuries and bankruptcies, and 95 percent of his clients are Hmong.
Almost all the state’s Hmong attorneys were refugees “born in the old country,” as he puts it, either from Laos or Thailand. But there is a big need for attorneys, he says.
“We have a lot of people who don’t have access to legal representation, they don’t know who to turn to, they don’t know their legal rights, and they don’t know they have a right to an attorney.”
“Hmong people have the same issues as everybody else,” said Ma Manee Moua, a St. Paul attorney, who represents both Hmong and non-Hmong clients. “I am extremely busy.”
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