Landlord’s Foreseeable Duty: Who Is Liable When Crime Lands on the Doorstep?

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Hubwonk podcast transcript, August 22, 2023

This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi. Welcome to Hubwonk, a podcast of Pioneer Institute, a think tank in Boston. For many immigrants, the chosen path to the American dream is small business entrepreneurship. Owing to their often limited wealth and community resources, these aspiring business owners may choose to locate in the most affordable cities and neighborhoods, where rents are low and local crime is often high. This precarious challenge to offer otherwise underserved communities useful goods and services, such as groceries, hair cutting, and convenience items, means they must also suffer the risk of the attending crime that occurs near their establishment. Such was the case for Uyen Fan, an immigrant from Vietnam who started her own nail salon in Randolph, Massachusetts less than 10 years after coming to the U.S. and who bought the building in which her salon had been renting three years later. To her horror, three months into her ownership an assassination-style murder took place outside the entrance to one of her commercial tenants, leading the victim’s family to sue her for liability. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently heard the case of Norvella Hill-Junious v. UTP Realty LLC and rendered a decision on August 16, which will serve to define the limits of liability for small business owners and landlords across the Commonwealth. What is the legal responsibility to entrepreneurs for third-party crimes that occur near their business? And were the court defined for the plaintiffs in such cases, what would be the likely effect on high-crime neighborhoods if the cost and risk of doing business becomes more than the local entrepreneurs can endure? My guest today is president of Pioneer Public Interest Law Center and retired United States judge, the Honorable Frank J. Bailey, who, along with his colleagues at Pioneer, submitted an amicus curiae brief in the Hill-Junios v. Utp Realty case supporting Ms. Fan, the defendant. Judge Bailey will share with us the facts and findings of the case and discuss the implication of the judge’s rulings to the small business community at large. He will also explain the arguments in Pioneer’s amicus brief on the way in which the principles addressed in this case speak to the value and vulnerabilities of America’s new immigrant entrepreneurs and their importance to the communities they serve. When I return, I’ll be joined by president of Pioneer Public Interest Law Center, retired federal judge, Frank Bailey.

Okay, we’re back. This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi. I’m now pleased to be joined by the president of Pioneer Public Interest Law Center and retired United States Judge, the Honorable Frank J. Bailey. Welcome back to Hubwonk, Judge Bailey.

Frank Bailey: Thank you, Joe. I’m delighted to be here.

Joe: All right. Well, we’re going to talk about an important case that was recently decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, but before we go there, in our intro, I identified you as the president of Pioneer’s Public Interest Law Center. What does the new law center do?

Frank: So, we’re focused on basically three areas of interest — school choice — and so we would bring lawsuits on behalf of children or families that have been denied an opportunity to attend the school of their choice. Open government — meaning that if government in some fashion, you know, either at a meeting or a hearing, interferes with the ability of a particular citizen to be heard. And third is equal economic opportunity. So, in the event that government over-restricts or — this case is a very good example — of where we think that a court opinion could negatively impact economic opportunity for a particular group of individuals.

Joe: Yeah, when we had you on last, we talked about your work trying to protect homeowners who are perhaps low income or few assets they may owe with taxes to the government and that house is taken, sold, and all the proceeds go to the government and none to the homeowner. You wrote an amicus brief that was ultimately decided the Supreme Court in favor of the homeowner and the justice, you know, the non-taking of those monies. So, in a sense, you’re sort of in the David and Goliath where government is Goliath, you’re on the side of David.

Frank: That’s fair to say, you know, that case is a good example of, you know, how that was the U.S. Supreme Court. And so, we’re still deeply involved with applying the outcome of that case to Massachusetts and to 12 other states where equity taking is continuing, although Maine recently changed its statute. Massachusetts — I testified at the house and Senate Joint Committee on that issue. So, Massachusetts is likely to make a change as soon as the Legislature can get to it. So yes, that’s right.

Joe: So you are having a real-world impact on, let’s say, the less fortunate people who may get the raw end of the stick from the government. So, let’s shift our focus to the case at hand. We’re going to be talking about the facts and the details in a case. I’m going to call it Hill-Junious because the plaintiff versus UTP, Realty, LLC. This is a case recently heard and decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. For our listeners, just give us in broad view and broad strokes, what are the facts in this particular case?

Frank: Well, it’s an interesting case, a very sad and unfortunate case. But in this case, Ms. Phan, Uyen Phan, is a Vietnamese person. Born in Vietnam, came here in 2013. And she, like so many immigrants, you know, opened her own business, a small business, which was a nail parlor in Randolph, Massachusetts. And after operating it for a period of time in a — what we call in the record vindicates — is somewhat of a rundown shopping plaza. She was on the first floor of the plaza and on the bottom floor opening to the back is a nightclub. And after she operated there successfully for a time, Ms. Fan decided that she should protect her lease and protect her then successful business. And so, in 2015, she purchased the property. Really remarkable kind of thing, isn’t it? I mean, she comes here and a few years later, she owns a commercial real estate in the Commonwealth. So that’s the location. What brings us to court is that three months after she closed on her purchase, a fellow named Drake Scott was literally executed in the common area — or it’s not even the common area, it was actually on the right of way in back of the property — by an individual named Mr. Wright, I believe his name is. I may have that wrong, but — and he was shot to death. And this nightclub that operated in the basement of her then building, right? So now she owns this plaza and three months later, there’s this execution murder out back. And the name of that bar was City Limits. It had multiple security guards in the location. They scanned everybody or patted them down or something to make sure that anybody who came in did not have any weapons. And during the evening, apparently some of the security folks were told by some other patrons that perhaps this Mr. Wright, I believe his name is, had a grudge against the decedent and that he was going to take vengeance on him. And in fact, they called the police. The police were in the right of way when this happened. But after they all left and the bar closed, in fact, Mr. Drake Scott was murdered as I’ve described.

Joe: All right.

Frank: Yeah, go ahead.

Joe: Okay, so we got the basic facts. We’ve got a relatively new immigrant who opens the salon and after a certain period of time buys the property where her salon is, that property also has a nightclub in it. You call it the City Limits Saloon. A terrible crime happens outside. And what brings them to court is that the estate or essentially the parent of the decedent, the victim, sues the landlord for liability, suggesting that as a landlord, she had some duty to ensure that such things don’t happen in or near her property. Is that the basic contours of the suit?

Frank: That’s right. You know, it’s interesting that as is so often the case in these matters, it appears that City Limits didn’t have any insurance or had let it lapse or something. And so, when they sued City Limits, they weren’t able to — it was not a likely candidate for them to recover. And so, they knew that Ms. Fan did have liability insurance. And so, they brought the lawsuit against her. And they argued that under the law, Ms. Fan, a commercial property owner, had a duty to undertake reasonable steps and measures to make sure that something like this didn’t happen. So, provide security essentially.

Joe: So, for our listeners who are not experienced as either commercial property owners or even business owners, this sounds a little bit farfetched, right? You have a salon, you’re operating during the day, you’re doing nails, and a terrible crime happens at an adjacent property that you have really no affiliation with. And it happens outside. This seems a stretch to hold the property owner liable. What would be an example, let’s say in a different case, where I have a business that could reasonably be expected to ensure safety, that crime doesn’t happen around me. Are there cases where landlords are indeed held liable for third-party actions that happen in or near their property?

Frank: That’s a good question. And the answer is yes, of course. So, let’s say that Walmart, by example, you know, has a store and they know that out in the parking lot, someone is — some group of individuals are doing stickups and holding their patrons, their customers, up, and stealing their merchandise, or breaking into cars and taking merchandise. Once the store knows of that, it’s happening in the common area, then, hold on, they might have a duty, they would have a duty to do something, to provide some security. So, it comes down to foreseeability and reasonableness of what’s foreseeable. And that’ll get us a bit more into the way the law works here. Another, an even easier example, you know, is in the sort of non-criminal area, we can all relate to this, that if Walmart or somebody knows that there’s a location in the parking lot where there’s a step down, or they know that the way it’s designed, there are an excessive number of accidents, you know, that Walmart could have an obligation to protect against negligence by doing a redesign. It gets a little harder when you get into criminal conduct, because there’s a third party who’s involved, and the question then becomes entirely this foreseeability question.

Joe: So again, as you say, foreseeability is saying, relying on the fact it has happened in the past, so one would argue looking forward, it will happen in the future, and that a responsible landlord, because it’s foreseeable, has a duty, an affirmative duty, to let’s say reduce or prevent anyone getting hurt. In this case, again, we’re focusing on the facts in this case, though there had been criminal incidents in the past, as you mentioned, Ms. Fan had only owned the property for three months, but it had been a tenant there as a business owner for longer. Where is that — you’re a judge, you’re a retired judge — where does that line fall between, let’s say, drawing a line between what happened in the past into drawing a line, what happens in the future, where does liability start to attach?

Frank: Well, the — a co-tenant in a property has a lot less interest, you know, in keeping an eye on what other tenants are doing in the property. They have no duty to do that, that’s for sure, and when you think about it, Ms. Fan is operating her nail salon on — and this mattered, I think, in the decision — on the first floor facing the street, out to the main street, the City Limits is operating on the second floor down below her and out back, and they’re operating at night. You know, there’s no crowd in there during the day when she’s operating her business, so when she testified and she did that she had no knowledge of any prior criminal activity at City Limits or in the parking lot out back, that was uncontested, no one could prove that she had any information, and there’s another aspect of this though that you’re probably going to ask me about, and that is, and that is when she bought the property — and they did argue this, the plaintiff did argue this — that she had a duty to do research and to determine herself whether or not there had been prior criminal conduct. So, that turns into a duty to inform oneself, and we can certainly talk about how the court dealt with that.

Joe: Yeah, I don’t know if we want to introduce this idea, or maybe it’s obvious, but she is a landlord as you mentioned, and she’d only been, I think she immigrated in 2003, started her business less than 10 years later and then bought the property less than three years later, so an ambitious entrepreneur, but nevertheless a recent entrepreneur, English isn’t her first language, and somewhat unsophisticated. Does that play into this kind of idea? Let me just say like you use your Walmart story as an example, but if Walmart had taken over a property for three months, but had, you know, again, you use an obvious example, had some defect in the parking lot where people tripped and fell and broke their leg, they certainly would have had an obligation to investigate that, and they would have had an obligation and duty to reduce or mitigate the likelihood of someone getting hurt. Again, Walmart’s a sophisticated landlord, does that have a bearing on this kind of argument?

Frank: Well, good point and probably not. You know, under the law, yeah, I think that it would be the difficult thing to compare her to Walmart, and so, I would say that that probably doesn’t come into the calculus, the tort calculus, you know, about what would have reason that either Walmart or Ms. Fan knew or should have known, and that goes to duty. So, if she knew of a defect in the parking lot, yeah, she would have had an obligation to take care of it, that’s for sure, and she probably had a duty to inform herself about that even in the three months after she owned the property.

Joe: Indeed. Okay, now let’s talk about the crime itself. Again, for our listeners, at least, I’m very least curious about how these things work. We’ve got a nightclub, it’s a tenant, her tenant, it’s serving drinks, I think they had like open mic night, and you know, it’s a fun place just people having fun. Is the landlord responsible? If, God forbid, somebody shoots somebody inside that establishment — inside, you know, inside the front door — is the landlord liable in any way, or is that a clear-cut case where it’s the business, not the landlord? You know, it would be good to talk edge case here.

Frank: That would be very hard to see how the landlord would have liability, unless the facts, you know, indicated that the landlord somehow attract the landlord, not the business attracted that particular customer. And if that had continued, you know, more than once, then that would be a very rare case. And in fact, in the lease between Ms. Fan and City Limits, which she inherited from the prior owner, it made City Limits responsible for its own internal security. So, now that might or might not protect her, actually. Again, the facts might indicate otherwise. And, you know, tort law is all about allocation of, you know, in the end, we all learned in law school that tort law is about compensating people. And whether we as society ought to compensate that person, or they should shoulder the loss themselves. And that brings in all kinds of insurance concepts, you know, into the calculus when you talk about tort law. So.

Joe: Well, let’s keep this to this particular case, whereby this person leaves a nightclub, and then, you know, walks a few steps and is gunned down, as you say, execution style. To me, the — I don’t understand how there’s any implication of either the property or even the nightclub, given that there seems to be, by my estimation, there’s nothing particular about a nightclub that, and you know, I don’t know what the right word? catalyzes executions, there’s no nothing inherently violent, there’s nothing, you know, it’s just a place where people congregate. The only affiliation is that he was there, not that they in somehow encouraged or enticed, or, or, you know, whatever the legal term for invited executions is that relevant here?

Frank: Yeah, it is. And your gut reaction leads you to the same place that the appellate judge and the trial judge came out here. And they said there was nothing. When Mr. Wright, I think his name was, was drawn, he had no connection to the property other than that he came in that evening and happened upon, these are in the facts, Mr. Scott. That there was nothing particularly about — this could have happened at the Walmart of the street, or it could have happened, you know, at the Mobile station, you know, around the corner, is really what the court found. And so, it was the random nature of this that made it unforeseeable. And the court was unwilling to say that a landlord is responsible for something that’s, you know, that random and unforeseeable. So, otherwise, as the court said, you’re making landlords guarantors of the safety of people that are even on the edge of the property, not necessarily even in the property. That’s not good.

Joe: Yeah, that’s not good. It’s pretty broad application of law and liability. So, I want to take a step back at the top of our conversation you talked about the mission of Pioneer Public Interest Law Center. You in this case filed an amicus brief, you know, supporting the case of the defendant, Ms. Fan. Before we go into what that amicus brief said, what is an amicus brief? And again, we’re speaking you are with the eyes of a judge. What does when you see an amicus brief mean to you?

Frank: So what amicus, you know, is Latin and amicus curiae is the two-word description of when an entity files a brief as a “friend of the court.” That’s what amicus means. And the and I have to add that in this instance, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts actually issued a statement requesting interested parties to file amicus briefs. That caught our eye. It always does. We watch for that, because if the court is asking for a brief and something that fits our area, you know, then we’re very likely to want to participate. An amicus brief is generally intended to say things that perhaps the parties are not going to say because they’re more limited to the specific facts and the precise law at issue in their case. An amicus brief gives a party like Pioneer, PPILC, an opportunity to provide policy information to the court about the implications, perhaps, of ruling a certain way. And that’s a big deal, frankly, you know, I sat on an appellate court on the bankruptcy appellate panel, we would receive amicus briefs from time to time. I even received some amicus briefs as a trial judge, that’s not inappropriate. And I found them to be really useful, because every judge wants to know, you know, what are the implications of my ruling? It may not change what you have to do. The law may drive you to a certain ruling. But at least you go in knowing that when I issue this opinion, it may have an untoward effect that wouldn’t have occurred to me.

Joe: Right. The other law, the law of unintended consequences, right? You’re in your robes, you’re in your solemn place of ruling. But the world is the world, and you have to understand the implications of the decisions you make as a judge, which are, you know, it’s a huge responsibility. So, I want to quote, then, what I like, my favorite sentence from your brief was the first of the summary, I’m going to read from it. And I think this says a lot. “Immigrant, entrepreneurs and property owners in lo- income, high-crime areas should not be made to shoulder disproportionately the financial burden of our society’s violent crime problem.” Is that that then that’s what got you to sharpen your pencil and write this this thing?

Frank: Yeah, it really was. I mean, what really concerned us about this is that to this this this kind of decision could be a make-it-or-break-it problem for immigrant entrepreneurs, but really also anyone who’s trying to enter the commercial real estate market, because it’s going to —number one, if it went a certain way against her, it would expose her to potential massive liability, you know, wrongful death case, a young man who apparently had children, you know, it could expose her to enough liability that she might have lost her plaza. And secondly, that she did have insurance, whether it would have been sufficient, who knows. But maybe she never would have been able to purchase the property if the insurance costs were that much higher, because the law, you know, insurance is a reflection of risk, and the risk would have gone up dramatically, you know, for people like her to purchase property like this.

Joe: So, I think that’s important to talk about. That Miss Fan’s case was very, very appealing in our sympathies are towards her. But you’re not just after one particular case, you’re looking for more generalizable principles which say, okay, if we were to assign a liability to people, not just Miss Fan, but others like her aspiring, you know, current landlords and aspiring landlords, were we to attach these kinds of liabilities to all people like her? The point of entry for all, let’s say, relatively unsophisticated landlords and entrepreneurs with not a lot of resources, the bar would be set so high that it would have broad sweeping implications, say more about how would this case generalizably apply to others. Will other let’s say potential litigants look to cases like this to decide whether they should try to sue or not?

Frank: Most certainly, you know, this would cause other plaintiffs’ lawyers, you know, to look carefully at facts, you know, where someone is injured or God forbid killed, you know, outside of a commercial property. And that, you know, it’s a maximum, you know, you want to sue the right person, but you want to sue the right person with the deepest pocket, you know. And so what it would have done, what it would do is it would have changed the calculus for assessment of the insurance risk. And if I’m an insurer, I look at it and I say, well, gee, in Massachusetts, you know, you’re sort of becoming a guarantor, even the intentional misconduct, the intentional act of first-degree murder, premeditated murder, is something that will be covered by the insurance and expose the insurer to paying out, you know, large amounts of money. So, you know, how’s that going to play out? Well, some of this is going to play out by insurers looking at the crime in the neighborhood and saying, all right, this is that that’s an increased risk, given that even intentional crimes are going to be something that are insured. And so, I’m going to raise the rates.

Joe: You also you talk about insurance a lot, but I’d also say this recent immigrant entrepreneur did not, I’m sure, pay for this building cash, though I don’t know that, she may have, but I think it’s more likely that she went to the bank to borrow money. Now, banks know that these kinds of lawsuits could mean essentially the end of their client’s business, like a giant Sword of Damocles, you know, not for any single one, but for a broad population, I would think both insurance companies and banks, were they to be vulnerable to these kinds of suits, would effectively be required to draw — I hate to use a term like this — red line, a particular community for saying anybody who’s brave enough to open a business in that community, because it has high crime, is not worthy of, you know, an affordable insurance policy, or really a reasonable loan, because they’re so vulnerable to these essentially lightning strike of premeditated murder that could happen in or near their property, right?

Frank: That’s a great point. And on top of all that, and I think you’re saying this, but, you know, certainly in my former life, I worried about things like this. You know, the cost of finance there, you know, if I’m the bank, I’m looking at this and saying, again, interest is also an assessment of risk, you know, what’s the risk that this person is not going to be able to repay it, or just not repay it? So, I would have said, you know, let’s charge, we’ll have to charge Ms. Phan, you know, a higher, a point or two higher on the loan that we would make to her, because the risk just went up.

Joe: Right. That’s true. Now, in your paper, you go into great detail about the profile of people who open small businesses in these — I don’t know which, how we want to describe it, you know, fairly — it’s low income, high crime, you know, otherwise depressed communities where there aren’t a lot of businesses, and the few that are there are often, and usually, run by dedicated entrepreneurs who are more often than not recent immigrants. Describe to our listeners, like why would someone choose to open a business or buy a property in a, let’s say, vulnerable or high-crime community?

Frank: Well, first of all, because they could afford to, you know, that’s where she was already operating her business. But it’s not — it shouldn’t be a surprise, you know — that in, we’ll say, you know, in locations and cities and towns, you know, where the income levels are lower, you know, we see a lot of ethnic restaurants, we see a lot of this kind of thing, you know, hair salons and beauty salons, massage, those kinds of things in a location. And the reason is because, you know, it’s an affordable place to rent. And the public will go there and patronize those businesses. So, I think that’s really what you’re getting at.

Joe: Yeah, what I would say is there’s much written and debated about all these, you know, food deserts or places that have been forgotten by, you know, the mass media or culture at large. But they haven’t been forgotten these places. They are the source of the businesses, the goods and services of these entrepreneurs who are often immigrants. They are the green shoots of livability, of convenience, of products. These are the sort of the bleeding edge, I hate to say, of the economy in these kinds of communities. Were we to, in a sense, hold them liable for the ambient crime that occurs around their businesses, it would, I think, so discourage those businesses that those communities where they thrive would be even more difficult to live in than they currently are. Is that, you know — maybe we’re going too far out into sociology land — but this seems to me intuitively obvious.

Frank: I think that’s exactly right. And there are a couple of other important factors. And we make these points in our brief that, you know, who are employed, you know, by people like Ms. Fan, you know? Usually other immigrants. So, she’s creating jobs for people that might otherwise have a problem because of language or, you know, or whatever, will have a hard time getting a job. So, and this is a story of a business that was highly successful. So that’s exactly what we hope will happen. And as you know from reading our brief, we looked at a couple of other communities in Greater Boston, where as a result of, — so Dorchester is a good example — where it was a much more of a high-crime area. And there have been studies to show that places like Dorchester have been a huge success in part, in large part, because initially, because of investment by immigrants, as they buy up locations to operate businesses, they buy the housing stock, improve the housing stock, demand that the school system get better, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of evidence that one of the pathways for a community to turn from a troubled and, you know, I try to be fair, you know, but high-crime neighborhoods, you know, can transition. And certainly, Dorchester is a great example of that. So.

Joe: Yeah, your paper talks about, you know, others like Gateway Cities like Lowell, I think they have a huge Cambodian community up there. But again, these are people who largely out of necessity must accept the risk, but then in return for the risk that they accept, there’s the opportunity for the American dream, they can prosper, as you say, become landowners, successful business owners, and essentially become Americans. And what they give back is the valuable goods and services they provide to those communities that would otherwise, you know, if we make their life harder, if we wait for Walmart to move into some of these communities, you’ve got a long wait, because they’re not willing to take the risk, all these entrepreneurs are. So, we’re getting close to the end of the time together. I’ve kind of already asked this question, but I want to ask it more directly. As a way of background, the shooter in this case, I think was convicted and got life in prison. And the City Limits Saloon was sued for, I think it was more than $800,000. And that would, they, City Limits lost. The plaintiff won that case. And that’s why it wound up with Ms. Fan, because I guess they didn’t have the insurance to cover this. What do you think now that this case has been decided for Ms. Fan, for the reasons we mentioned? What will this case mean for the small business community in Massachusetts? And perhaps there’s more generalizable in the country, but what will it mean for others in the future?

Frank: Well, you know, it, I’ll put it this way, I think that it would have meant a lot had it gone the other way and not good things, right? It would have increased the cost as we’ve talked about, both from a financing standpoint, from a risk standpoint, from a, you know, what there was another amicus brief filed in this case by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, you know, they were worried about increasing these costs and expenses to people that might want to buy in more marginal communities. That would have hurt their business. And they’re frankly rooting, you know, for buyers in that community. So, what it would have meant had it gone the other way is it would have increased the cost of purchasing real estate, commercial real estate such as this, and it might have put it out of reach, you know, for many people. And the line has been drawn, you know, here, and that line is that foreseeability will mean we will not include as a foreseeable risk that there will be an intentional murder, you know, or probably other intentional criminal conduct that is somewhat random. You said ambient, that’s a word we used in the brief. It’s an excellent word. That’s ambient crime, you know, that you’re not the guarantor against all ambient crime that happens to occur in your, in the curtilage, in the neighborhood, you know, of the real estate that you own. It’s a nice win, you know, I think for, for immigrant investors in Massachusetts, it’s a good result. We applaud the court for it. You know, when we started this project and thought about filing a brief, we let people know and we started to hear from, you know, Vietnamese immigrant groups, Cambodian immigrant groups, Brazilian immigrant groups, you know, all saying, ‘What can we do to help? Because this is really not good, not good for us.’ Some of that came through, came through our brief.

Joe: Indeed. And I hope we don’t create a false dichotomy between entrepreneurs and the community at large. I think it’s win-win when entrepreneurs and recent immigrants win the community where they’re thriving, their business is thriving, also wins. And were, as you say, this case to have gone the other way, it would have been a huge loss, of course, to aspiring entrepreneurs and current entrepreneurs, but those communities were, you know, they’ve got the little bodega, they got the food restaurant, they’ve got this nail salon. If those all went away, it just would make huge pockets of our Commonwealth far less livable and underserved. So, I’ll give you the last word. Anything else to say?

Frank: Well, I always, you know, my, our lives inform us on these kinds of policy and impact litigation matters. And I recall that my great-grandmother, when she came from Ireland, moved to New York City in Hell’s Kitchen. And by the time she died, she owned a brownstone. And in the first floor was a bar, not that she operated, but a bar. And I’m guessing there were a few fists thrown in or outside that bar. And that wasn’t an issue for my great-grandmother, but that was her foothold, right? That’s how she was able to get, to plant her flag in this country. And this is very much like that. So anyway, she’s probably watching this!

Joe: Okay, wonderful. Well, thank you for your time. I appreciate your, the color that you can provide us as a judge should, you know, you’ve seen both sides of these arguments on both sides of the, of the, I guess, the desk. We really appreciate what you’ve offered here and the amicus brief. And of course, what a PPILC is doing for, for the little guy in the legal world. Thank you very much for your time and joining me on hub on today, judge Bailey. Great job.

Frank: Thanks so much for having me on.

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Joe Selvaggi talks with retired Federal Judge Frank Bailey, president of Pioneer Public Interest Law Center, about the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Hill-Junious v. UTP Realty, LLC, regarding the limits of liability for a landlord when a murder occurs near her tenant’s location, and the challenges facing small entrepreneurs in high-crime communities.


The Hon. Frank J. Bailey was the United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Massachusetts (ret.). He has also served as an appellate judge on the First Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. Judge Bailey served as judicial law clerk with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, an associate at the Boston office of Sullivan & Worcester LLP, and spent 22 years as a partner at Sherin and Lodgen LLP. Judge Bailey was elected by his peers to serve as the President of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (“NCBJ”), a position that he held until October 2021. He has been active in leadership positions in the American Bar Association, including as the Judicial Member at Large on the ABA Board of Governors and as a member of the ABA Executive Committee. Judge Bailey served as the Chair of the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges, an ABA entity that includes over 400 federal judges. Beyond his judicial leadership positions, Judge Bailey has served as the Chair of the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden, Massachusetts, a board member of the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University, as President of the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and on the Massachusetts Council of the New England Legal Foundation. Judge Bailey served as adjunct faculty at the Boston University School of Law and at New England Law School. He currently teaches Advanced Business Restructuring at Suffolk University School of Law. He has been active in international judicial training and legal education, including in Argentina, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service (BSFS in economics) in 1977 and his JD from Suffolk University in 1980. Judge Bailey retired from judicial service on June 1, 2022.