SJC Affirms Summary Judgment in Immigrant Entrepreneur Case

Pioneer Law Center filed amicus brief on behalf of immigrant property owner

BOSTON, August 17, 2023 – Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has affirmed a summary judgment granted by the Superior Court in Norvella Hill-Junious v. UTP Realty, LLC, a case in which the Pioneer Public Interest Law Center (PPILC) filed an amicus brief. 

This case involved Vietnamese immigrant Uyen Phan, who owned and operated a nail salon in Randolph. To protect her successful business, she bought the shopping plaza in which it operates, which included the City Limits Saloon, a nightclub where some violent disturbances had occurred. 

On February 17, 2017, about three months after Uyen purchased the shopping plaza, there was an execution-style murder in the parking lot of the City Limits Saloon.

The decedent’s mother sued Uyen and UTP Realty, alleging that the murder was foreseeable and that owners of commercial real estate have a duty to implement measures to prevent such foreseeable crimes on the premises.

The SJC upheld the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants, finding that such an act was not foreseeable. The SJC determined that the plaintiff offered no precedent to support her claim that commercial landowners have a duty to inquire about any history of criminal activity on their properties.

PPILC’s brief argued that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would have had an outsized negative impact on immigrant entrepreneurs because they tend to own property in transitional neighborhoods. The cost of owning such property would rise dramatically, as owners would need to equip the premises with nearly full-time security, which might foreclose the ability of immigrant entrepreneurs to acquire commercial property. 

“Immigrants investing in commercial property located in marginal neighborhoods bring jobs and development to those locations,” said PPILC President Frank Bailey. “Investing in real property is also an important step toward achieving the American dream by creating equity and family wealth for immigrant investors.”

Securing Religious Liberty Rights in Maine

Pioneer Law’s role in winning the Carson v. Makin case at the Supreme Court

On June 21, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Carson v. Makin that a Maine school tuition law that excluded religious schools was unconstitutional. Pioneer Public Interest Law Center, then known as PioneerLegal, had filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Court to strike down the Maine law.

In the Court’s 2020 ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “A state need not subsidize private education.  But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

For over a century, until the early 1980s, religiously affiliated schools were included in the Maine school tuitioning program, under which communities that don’t have their own schools can either contract with a school or allow parents to use the per-pupil spending allotment to attend the public or private school of their choice. The Maine state legislature, driven by the Senate chair of the education committee, re-codified the program in 1982 to prohibit parents and students from using the law to access religious schools, as was originally intended in 1873.

Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios noted that Maine law allowed parents to access the public or private education that best suits their children except if the school was religiously affiliated — a practice that, in light of the Espinoza decision, was clearly counter to the Constitution.


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.