Two New Chinese Judges Share Their Faith in Law

Judge Phyllis Chu on left and judge Frances Wang on right (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed 20 judges to the criminal, family, and civil courts including Phyllis Chu and Frances Wang, two Chinese Americans who have been working for years in the field of law. Their appointments increase the courtroom diversity in the city where there aren’t many Chinese judges. The two said that to them, the new job doesn’t only mean that they realized their dream career, but also means they get the opportunity to serve the community better. They also called for Chinese young people who are interested in law to work harder to fulfill their dreams, and to help increase the presence of Chinese in all sections of the legal field.

Although they were both appointed by the mayor to become judges, Chu and Wang arrived here via different routes. Chu, who has been practicing law for 23 years, belongs to the third generation of an immigrant family from Canton. She went to Cornell University, and then got her law degree at Northeastern University. Before she was appointed to be a criminal court judge, Chu worked in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office where she had been a senior assistant DA of the homicide bureau among other positions.

Wang was born to a Taiwanese family in Singapore and came to the U.S. as a third grader. Thanks to the encouragement of a teacher, she started to get interested in law. After graduating from St. John’s University, Wang went to the law school at Hofstra University. After she got her degree in law there, Wang worked in the Bronx district attorney’s office for eight years as a prosecutor in the Criminal Court and appeals bureau.

But they had something in common during their childhood. They were both found to be talented in oral presentations. Chu said she was called a “smart mouth” when she was a kid. “They thought I was good at speaking. Indeed my ‘smart mouth’ got me into a lot of trouble,” she said jokingly. Wang was told by her teachers that she was good at speaking. “Often when the teachers finished their presentation, I’d chime in to say something. One day, a teacher said to me, you should aim to be a lawyer. At that time, I didn’t realize how much these words would affect my life,” said Wang. So they both went on to study law and were prepared to serve the public with what they learned.

Both Chu and Wang said their cultural background as Chinese as well as their bilingual ability have helped them a lot in their career. Chu said although she is a third-generation Chinese, her parents were determined to have her learn the language. “When I was a kid, it was like I was in sixth grade in regular school and in first grade in Chinese school,” said Chu. She said at the Brooklyn DA’s office, whenever they took a case involving Chinese or Asians, she was always tapped to handle it. “Some Chinese victims are more likely to talk to us when they see someone who looks like them,” said Chu.

Wang agrees. She said her listening comprehension in Chinese is good. So she can always find the translation errors in court and correct them immediately. “This helps my points to be conveyed more accurately so the outcome of the case is fairer,” she said.

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