Fresno is home to the nation’s second largest population of Hmong immigrants and their children. Since 1999 the Hmong International New Year Foundation, Inc. has hosted an annual New Year celebration at the Fresno Fairgrounds that has attracted tens of thousands from throughout the world. For the past four years, with the help of Dowling Aaron Incorporated attorney Daniel O. Jamison and his team, the Foundation has been battling in court over the right to host this celebration of Hmong unity and heritage. On Friday, May 13, 2016, the Court ruled in favor of the Foundation, marking an important victory for Hmong people, locally and internationally.
In the mountains of Laos, under the leadership of General Vang Pao, for whom a Fresno Elementary School is named, the Hmong were firm supporters of the U.S. in the Southeast Asian War of the 1960s and 1970s. They guarded American bases, rescued downed American flyers, attacked and disrupted the North Vietnamese infiltration route into South Vietnam and fought the communists who sought to overthrow the Laotian Royal Government. The Hmong were fierce, dedicated and skillful fighters. They loved the ideals of America of the dignity of the individual, of responsible individual liberty, and of protection for basic human rights. They threw their full support to the American war effort.
The 1975 victory of the communists spelled genocide for the Hmong minority in Laos. Led by General Vang Pao, thousands of Hmong escaped to squalid refugee camps in Thailand and then to America, settling primarily in Fresno and Minnesota. These honored supporters of American ideals did not have a written language until the last century, yet their children are flourishing in America, becoming doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, politicians and hard-working citizens. A funeral program for a deceased veteran of the Southeast Asian Wars reads, “In the old days, he who will eat must learn to handle a hoe. Nowadays, he who will eat must learn to handle a pen. Therefore, be diligent in your education.”
It is unlikely that other Americans understand the hardship the Hmong endured to support America: they have been ripped from their ancient homeland and planted in a new foreign country. Essential to their survival has been Hmong pride and unity under General Vang Pao, which is renewed and symbolized every year in the Hmong New Year Celebration at the Fresno Fairgrounds, as it has been for the past 17 years. It is hosted by the Hmong International New Year Foundation, Inc., with the blessing of General Vang Pao, and by its past and current leaders who include Col. Youa True Vang (aka “Joseph Youa Vang”), Liahoua Vang, Zang Her and Charlie Vang.
This has been the largest Hmong New Year celebration in the nation, attracting up to 120,000 Hmong and other peoples from throughout the world. The celebrations begin with a parade of Hmong veterans and symbolize support for Hmong and American values, including the objection of American Hmong to the communists’ hunting down and killing Hmong hiding in the jungles of Laos.
In 2010, another faction of Hmong claimed they had the right to do the New Year Celebrations. They rejected General Vang Pao’s advice that they did not have this right and were not competent to do these huge celebrations. This faction then filed suit in 2012 against the Foundation, Charlie Vang, “Joseph Youa Vang”, Zang Her and Liahoua Vang, and began a campaign in the Hmong and other media to make false claims about the Foundation and these individuals.
Affirming the wisdom of the now deceased General Vang Pao and at the request of and based on the work of attorney Daniel O. Jamison and his team at the law firm of Dowling Aaron Incorporated, who represented the Foundation and individuals, the Court has now ended that lawsuit entirely in favor of the Foundation and these individuals. As to United Hmong Council, Inc., its president Cheng Lee, its secretary Eugene Her, its Board members Nao Vang Vue and Michael Vang, and Teng Xiong, whom the Court referred to as “Respondents,” the Court stated the following (in part) in its Order ending the lawsuit, a complete copy of which can be read by clicking here.
“The Court having considered the extensive evidence received by declarations, deposition testimony, documentary evidence and oral testimony, and the court having considered all of the papers and argument submitted by counsel for the parties, the Court now finds as follows:
Respondents have been and are engaged in a pattern of severe, egregious, deliberate, inveterate and breathtaking misconduct that includes disobeying Court Orders, testifying falsely, and setting in motion an unconscionable scheme calculated to disrupt the judicial system by misleading the Court and finder of fact, interfering with their impartiality, interfering with a rightful decision in the case, and hampering the opposing parties’ presentation of their defenses. The Court finds that Respondents will not move forward in an honest and truthful way and will render the trial on the merits in this case a sham and unfair for the defendants. By the applicable standard of proof, further contempt sanctions are warranted, but monetary sanctions, and even imprisonment up to five days, or some other sanction, will not cure or prevent the Respondents’ pattern of misconduct. By clear and convincing evidence, the Court finds that only dismissal of the action is adequate to prevent an unfair trial, prevent fraud on the Court, protect the integrity of the Court as an institution of justice, and preserve the fairness of trial.”
The Foundation and its leaders now look forward to strengthening Hmong unity in support of each other and the best of American values.