Superior Court Judge Invalidates “Equity Theft” Law as Unconstitutional

SPRINGFIELD, MA –A Massachusetts Superior Court has ruled that a state law allowing municipalities (or private actors to whom municipalities sell the right to foreclose) to foreclose on homes due to property tax debt without having to pay the homeowner the difference between the taxes owed and the value of the home is unconstitutional as applied to the facts of the case at hand.

PioneerLegal Gains Access to MBTA Pension Arbitration Award After Seven-Month Process

Award increases age at which T employees can collect full pension, gives retirees 3 percent cost of living adjustment

BOSTON, April 26, 2023 – After a more than seven-month struggle, PioneerLegal, a public interest law firm, has gained access to an important August 2022 arbitrator’s decision about a dispute between the MBTA and its largest union, the Carmen, over the severely underfunded MBTA Retirement Fund (MBTARF).

“I’m proud that our work allowed this important decision to become public,” said PioneerLegal attorney John La Liberte. “But it’s troubling that it would take more than seven months for a document that affects so many people to see the light of day.”

Unlike in the state retirement system, basic tenets of the MBTARF, such as employer and employee contributions and retirement age, are negotiated by the parties.

The MBTARF has been in free fall in recent years. In 2007, pension costs accounted for 9 percent of payroll, but by 2021 they had risen to 24 percent. Despite this dramatic funding increase, the funded ratio fell from 75 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2021, with a $1.4 billion unfunded liability.

The arbitrator ruled that for MBTA employees under 60 years old with five or more years of service, the age for receiving a full pension will be raised to 65. Pensions would be reduced by 6 percent per year for each year before 65, which will save over $12 million annually.

Previously, MBTA employees hired before December 6, 2012, could receive a full pension after 23 years of service, regardless of age. The policy is one of the main reasons why the system has more retirees collecting pensions than employees paying in.

Retirees were granted a 3 percent cost of living adjustment affective July 1, 2018, and arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier maintained the status quo on a number of other issues of disagreement between the MBTA and the Carmen.

Release of the award came only after a long and tortuous process. On September 3, 2022, PioneerLegal submitted a public records request to the MBTA for the decision, which is dated August 26. The T failed to respond by September 23, as required under Massachusetts public records law.

On that date, the Carmen’s Union filed a lawsuit challenging the arbitrator’s award.

On October 6, Pioneer submitted an appeal to the Massachusetts supervisor of records.  This time, the MBTA responded, claiming the award was exempt from disclosure.

PioneerLegal filed a second appeal on October 25, but the supervisor of records declined to opine on the substance of the matter.

On December 15, 2022, PioneerLegal filed suit in Superior Court to compel release of the award. The court denied the motion on March 30, 2023.

Just last week, after PioneerLegal—now known as Pioneer Public Interest Law Center— petitioned a single justice of the Appeals Court to reverse the Superior Court decision, the MBTA produced the award.

“Sadly, this is a case where Massachusetts earned its reputation for government opacity,” said Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios. At a time when the MBTA faces declining ridership and growing deficits, taxpayers deserve to know about the additional threat the pension fund poses to the T’s fiscal stability.”


Pioneer Public Interest Law Center (PPILC) is a nonpartisan, public interest law firm that defends and promotes educational options, accountable government, and economic opportunity across the Northeast. PPILC achieves its mission through legal research, amicus briefs, and litigation.

New Pioneer Institute Law Center to Focus on Educational Opportunity, Economic Freedom, and Accountable Government

Retiring U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Frank J. Bailey to become first president of PioneerLegal

BOSTON – Pioneer Institute is pleased to announce the formation of PioneerLegal, the first non-profit, public interest law firm of its kind in New England, to defend and promote educational options, accountable government and economic opportunity across the Northeast.

“We aim to create a robust community of professionals committed to leveraging the law to advance equal opportunity and responsive, responsible government,” said Brackett Denniston, PioneerLegal’s chairman. “And we will push back on government entities when they unreasonably limit the right of individuals to grow businesses and jobs in the New England region.”

PioneerLegal’s work will be guided by three principal tenets:

  • Educational opportunity is of cardinal importance in a just and merit-based society.
  • Government power must be transparent, accountable and protective of the rights of citizens.
  • Markets free from unwarranted intrusion and a robust business and jobs market provide the greatest opportunity for the greatest number.

PioneerLegal will achieve its mission through legal research, amicus briefs, and litigation.

PioneerLegal will also offer informational and educational programming relating to litigation, provide research on important legal issues and sponsor educational programs.

Judge Frank J. Bailey, upon his retirement later this year, will become PioneerLegal’s first president. This was made public by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts in a press release on February 15, 2022.

“The recruitment of Judge Bailey, together with the reputations of our Board members as fair-minded professionals of high character and expertise, speaks volumes about the quality of work and impact you will see from PioneerLegal,” Denniston said.

PioneerLegal is led by legal professionals of the highest reputation. In addition to Denniston, of Goodwin Procter, its Board of Directors includes:

      • • Jonathan Albano, MorganLewis
        • Former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert Cordy, McDermott Will & Emery
        • R. Scott Henderson, Bank of America
        • Frank Jimenez, GE Healthcare
        • Mark Matuschak, WilmerHale
        • Lisa Rickard, U.S, Chamber of Commerce
        • Elke Trilla, Sullivan & Worcester
        • Stan Twardy, Day Pitney

“We are so pleased to have the opportunity to work with such high-caliber legal professionals,” stated Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios. “This board will drive an agenda focused on upholding constitutional government, ensuring economic opportunity for all workers and entrepreneurs, and educational opportunity for all children.”

The Institute began incubating a legal initiative in 2015, with notable participation in such cases as Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2020), Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (2019) and Anderson v. Healey (2018). With the establishment of PioneerLegal as a non-partisan organization governed by legal professionals, the Institute will be able to advance strategic litigation to support its mission.

During its history, Pioneer Institute has been instrumental in establishing various social entrepreneurship organizations including the Charter Schools Resource Center, which in 2002 was spun off as Building Excellent Schools, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on training high-quality charter school entrepreneurs across the country and the Partnership for Massachusetts’ Future, a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization.

More information about PioneerLegal can be found at

A video announcement is also available.


Pioneer Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan research institute. Pioneer’s mission is to develop and communicate dynamic ideas that advance prosperity and a vibrant civic life in Massachusetts and beyond. Pioneer’s vision of success is a state and nation where our people can prosper and our society thrive because we enjoy world-class options in education, healthcare, transportation and economic opportunity, and where our government is limited, accountable and transparent. Pioneer values an America where our citizenry is well-educated and willing to test our beliefs based on facts and the free exchange of ideas, and committed to liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.

PioneerLegal is a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy legal research and litigation entity, organized under Section 501c(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. PioneerLegal is a non-partisan, public interest law firm that defends and promotes educational options, accountable government and economic opportunity across the Northeast. Through legal action, including litigation, and public education, PioneerLegal works to preserve and enhance liberties grounded in the constitutions and civil rights laws of the United States and the individual New England states.

Get Updates


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Stay Informed

PioneerLegal is a non-partisan, public interest law firm that defends and promotes educational options, accountable government and economic opportunity across the Northeast. PioneerLegal achieves its mission through legal research, amicus briefs, and litigation.