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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Judge Chin, Dean Wu Bring Asian American Courtroom Stories to Life

Legal drama reenactments by Chancellor & Dean Frank H. Wu, others in The Atlantic, Sept. 4, 2013

He sentenced financier Bernie Madoff to 150 years in prison and presided over cases ranging from the U.N. Oil for Food scandal to the long-running Google Books dispute.

For the last seven years, Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has also been writing historic reenactments of Asian American trials. (Of more than 180 federal appellate court judges nationwide, Chin is one of just four Asian Americans.) The newest one, titled 22 Lewd Chinese Women, will premiere at the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s national convention in Kansas City this November.

“They’re all tragedies,” said Frank H. Wu, Chancellor and Dean of UC Hastings College of the Law and a co-author of the Vincent Chin script. “On another level, they’re the story of America, of a group that arrives, faces prejudice, and does its best to overcome that. And sometimes, the system doesn’t work. Sometimes, people fail. But ultimately, it succeeds.”

Vincent Chin, an American of Chinese descent (no relation to the judge), was fatally beaten in 1982 with a baseball bat on the night of his bachelor party. Witnesses recalled that Chin’s murderers had shouted obscenities, blaming Asian Americans like Chin for the layoffs that were ripping through Detroit’s auto industry.

Despite pleading guilty and no contest, respectively, to manslaughter, Ronald Ebens and his step-son, Michael Nitz, were sentenced to three years’ probation, a $3,000 fine, and court costs of $260. The sentences galvanized the Asian American community and led to two federal criminal civil rights trials. Nitz was acquitted; Ebens was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was later acquitted in a retrial.

Read more from The Atlantic here.

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