Doris Ling-Cohan has dedicated her career to helping immigrants and the disadvantaged negotiate the intricacies of the legal system. Elected to the New York State Supreme Court in 2002, she is the first Asian American woman to serve on that bench.
Ling-Cohan was born in New York's Chinatown, the daughter of hardworking Chinese immigrants-her mother was a seamstress and her father worked in a laundry. As a twelve-year-old, she accompanied her mother to a hearing for a man accused of assaulting her mother. That she and her mother had no idea how to find their way around the courthouse and that there seemed to be no information available to those who did not speak English left a lasting impression on her.
In high school, Ling-Cohan worked part time as a seamstress and a threadcutter in the sewing factories of Chinatown. Supporting herself, she studied psychology at Brooklyn College and received her degree summa cum laude in 1976. She went on to New York University School of Law on a full scholarship, graduating in 1979.
Ling-Cohan began her legal career as an attorney for various New York Legal Services agencies representing indigent people, after which she joined the New York State Attorney General's consumer fraud protection unit. She also has taught classes in law and Asian American studies at CUNY Law School, New York University, City College, and Queens College. In 1995 Judge Ling-Cohan was elected to the Civil Court of the City of New York from the Second Municipal Court District.
Ling-Cohan is a founding member of the Asian American Bar Association; the Jade Council, an organization for court employees of Asian descent; and the New York Asian Women's Center, the first organization to focus on preventing domestic violence in New York City's Asian communities.
In recognition of her service to New York City and her vigorous advocacy of the legal rights of immigrants and non-English speakers, Brooklyn College honors Doris Ling-Cohan with the Distinguished Alumna Award.