This is Week 5 of AsianWeek’s salute to Chinese American Heroes and this week, we want to tell you about some “legal beagles.” Yes, there are Chinese American attorneys, actually – quite a few lawyers are in our ranks. Most, like most Chinese American professionals, are low profile and relatively unknown. You met one of our best in the first week of this series, you may recall that we told the story of heroine US Attorney Carol Lam, who was lambasted (and forced to resign) for nailing some big shot politicians who had friends in Washington. Some of those Washington friends were subsequently forced to resign too.
Our first lawyer (and former Assistant US Attorney) is Brian Sun, who provided “pro-bono” legal representation to Wen Ho Lee, the now famous/infamous Chinese American engineer who was blindly pursued by the Department of Justice, seeking a culprit for atomic secrets that were allegedly stolen and provided to China. As we now know, Federal Judge James Parker (appointed by the Administration of the time) scolded the Executive branch and the Department of Justice for its misguided and shameful behavior in trying to prosecute the case. A senior FBI agent perjured himself so that Lee would be shackled in solitary confinement, hoping to force a confession. The heavy shackles and constant pressure failed to “break” Lee. The information that Lee allegedly passed to the Chinese was not even classified at the time. In the civil lawsuit that Sun helped Lee with afterwards, the US Government and several media organizations were forced to pay $1.6 million in damages.
Following Sun, we will introduce you to several other outstanding attorneys, including Morgan Chu, Stewart Kwoh, Debra Wang Yang, and You Chung Hong. They have all served our Community well.
Please make sure you take a few minutes to visit the Chinese American heroes of many other professions as well as lawyers who became judges such as Judges Harry Low and Ming Chen at www.chineseamericanheroes.org.
Chinese American Hero: Brian Sun
Name in English: Brian Sun
Name in Chinese: 孙自骅 [孫自驊]
Name in Pinyin: Sūn Zìhuá
Birth Year: 1955
Birth Place: Monterey, California
Profession(s): Lawyer, Community Advocate
Education: B.A., 1976, University of Southern California; J.D., 1979, University of Southern California
Award(s): 2001, American Jewish Congress Award for pro bono work on behalf of Dr. Wen Ho Lee; 2003, named Defense Attorney of the Year by the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section; 2003, Distinguished Service Award from the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association; 2005, named one of America’s 500 leading lawyers by Lawdragon Magazine, Phi Beta Kappa
Contribution(s): Distinguished trial lawyer, specializing in business litigation and white-collar criminal defense. He was a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California. He has lectured and written on trial practice, ethics, white-collar crime, and corporate compliance with government regulations.
Brian Sun represented Dr. Wen Ho Lee in his civil lawsuit against the US Government. Dr. Lee had pleaded guilty to one charge of mishandling classified information even though he’d originally faced much more serious charges. The media vilification he suffered and government misconduct in the case resulted in a $1.6 million settlement from the federal government and five media organizations in June 2006. He also represented former FBI agent J.J. Smith, who admitted in a 2004 plea deal to concealing his 20-year sexual relationship with Katrina Leung, who was convicted (later overturned due to prosecutor misconduct) of handling and copying unauthorized classified documents obtained from Mr. Smith. She was suspected of spying for the Chinese Ministry of State Security while being paid as an FBI informant. Sun served as attorney for Johnny Chung in the 1996 US presidential campaign finance scandal. In 1992, Sun was appointed deputy general counsel for the investigation of the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles. As an Assistant US Attorney, he pioneered the passage of anti-money laundering legislation.
Brian Sun is currently a partner at Jones Day law firm in Los Angeles. He is a former president of the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, and is a trustee of Southwestern Law School.