Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Law Suit

In 1955 Auntie Dorothy, Auntie Corrine and Maxine ( daughter of Auntie May ) make the following complaint in the courts:

Jue Joe, the father, and San Tong Jue, the son, were in the wholesale produce business. The business was extensive and alleged to be valued at several hundred thousand dollars. According to the record, upon the father's death the son took over the business. As stated in appellants' brief and alleged in substance:
"Upon the death of Jue Joe, said San Tong Jue held a dominating and influential position with the surviving members of the Jue Joe family; they being female, respected him and his judgment and placed and reposed great confidence and trust in him and in his word and conduct in relation to the Estate of Jue Joe, deceased. Said San Tong Jue coveted the entire estate of Jue Joe, deceased, sought to obtain possession of and title to the same, to the total exclusion of all other heirs of Jue Joe, deceased" In furtherance of said defendant's plan to appropriate all of the assets of the decedent, to the exclusion of the other heirs-at-law, the defendant San Tong Jue approached his sister, the plaintiff Dorothy Jue Moe, and under threat of death, procured a deed from her to property in Tulare County which had been given to her by her father, the decedent Jue Joe, as a gift during his lifetime, and had been paid for by her father out of his earnings in the Jue Joe Company.
"In furtherance of his plan to acquire title to and possession of all of the property belonging to said decedent, to the total exclusion of the other heirs-at-law, said defendant San Tong Jue persuaded his sister Corinne Jue Kwok to convey to his son, the defendant Jack Jue and deliver to him, possession of certain property in Los Angeles County, State of California which had been given to her by her father, the decedent Jue Joe, as a gift during his lifetime and had been paid for by her father out of his earnings in the Jue Joe Company. Title to said property was conveyed to said Jack Jue as a convenience to defendant San Tong Jue, his son Jack having been born in this country, was qualified to hold real property in California, while the defendant San Tong Jue having been born in China, was not so qualified under the California Alien Land Act. Defendant San Tong Jue persuaded his sister, defendant Corinne Jue Kwok to make such reconveyance under the false and fraudulent promise that he made to her that he would hold said property in trust and manage the same for the sole use and benefit of all members of the family who were the heirs-at-law of decedent.
"After acquiring title to and possession of all of the assets of the estate of Jue Joe, deceased, defendant San Tong Jue did the following things:
"He continued to operate the partnership business without change of name or location and without an accounting to the executor or to anyone else; appropriated all the monies obtained from that lucrative business and now claims that he is the sole owner thereof to the exclusion of all other members of the family."
Other acts alleged to be unlawful and fraudulent are also alleged.


  1. Before the trial began San Tong met with Dorothy and told her that she could have all of Jue Joe's property; only, leave him, San Tong, a small piece of land to farm so that he could support their mother Leong Shee and his children. He begged her not to press forward with such wild claims. He begged her to remember their father's intent and that such contrary action would destroy the family. She refused his request. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  2. Brother Guy told me that as to the Tulare/Porterville property Dorothy claimed it was a gift to her from Jue Joe, and that San Tong worked for her as her "forman." In fact, Jue Joe and San Tong had leased the land from Scott Manlove years earlier for farming. When later Manlove decided to sell, San Tong purchased the property with his personal savings, not with money from the Jue Joe Partnership. He had to put it in Dorothy's name because he was not "naturalized" yet. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  3. Jue Joe died "Intestate." Meaning that he left no Will and Testament. There was no Will placed in a safe deposit box. Jue Joe died with the understanding that his children would carry on family matters as he had--in the Chinese way. But when Dorothy refused to sign over the Tulare/Porterville ranch to San Tong, after San Tong became Naturalized, an argument ensued between brother and sister. Then Warren Moe, Dorothy's husband, said to her, "Who does the Porterville ranch really belong to?" Dorothy replied to Warren, "Why, it is San's ranch. But I hold legal title to it." Then Warren said to Dorothy, "Then give it back to him" As I stated in the section "The Trial and the Appeal," Posie (Leong Shee) collapsed into hysterical sobbing upon news of daughter Dorothy's pending litigation against her son San Tong. She asked Chan Lum Loon, Jimmy and Ming's father, to drive her to Dorothy's house in order to talk Dorothy out of her lawsuit. But Warren Moe told Posie to her face, "Nothing is in your name. So you have no say in the matter." John N. Hurtt, attorney for San Tong, wanted Leong Shee to testify, he felt she was the strongest witness as to Jue Joe's intent. However, it would have destroyed Leong Shee emotionally. Moreover, she had had a stroke that left her partially paralyzed, she spoke no English, and she did not understand shrewd and manipulative cross-examination. San Tong wanted to spare his mother any further pain and rejected Hurtt's idea that she testify. Instead, Jue Joe's old-timer friends were willing to testify on San Tong's behalf. Only, Dorothy threatened each of them with deportation if they testified.

  4. Correction: My earlier statement about Posie's reaction to Dorothy's lawsuit, as mentioned above, is not located in "The Trial and the Appeal" section. Instead, it is located in the section called, "Details: Posie--Leong Shee." Auntie Soo-Yin.

  5. Govenor Hiram Johnson of California passed the "California Alien Land Act of 1913" that barred unnaturalized Chinese from owning land. Johnson harnessed the negative passions of the times to further discriminate against a targeted nonwhite group and to enhance his political leverage. Under the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 the Chinese were not allowed to become naturalized citizens, so California's Alien Land Act effectively delivered the final blow. Moreover, the "Amended Alien Land Law of 1920" tightened the screw. It shifted the "burden of proof" from the state to the individual, effectively making it so very difficult to challenge the Act on Consitutional grounds. In addition, the Amendment gave "escheat" power to the state. These barriers were what Jue Joe and his son San Tong faced. And the Jue family land holdings were ensnared. Add to this major impediment was a transnational family undergoing internal cultural clashes. Clashes unresolved, clashes little understood by the public in the early 1940s and 1950s in which research on the subject was almost nil. From 1950 to 1958 the Jue family was ensnarled in legal battle and the impact took its toll on all the participants, as well as on the generation that followed. Auntie Soo-Yin.