Thursday, August 19, 2010

Details : Jue Joe and the Alien Land Law

"My Dad held no hard feelings towards his sisters. He always blamed the Alien Land law that caused the family rift. I asked my Mom how could Dad not be bitter and angry over what happened. She said that this is the only way he could have coped with it, otherwise he would be emotionally destroyed. The law was at fault, not his sisters….that was his chosen view. - Auntie Soo-Jan "

Let's review the history of the California Alien Land law .

"The California Alien Land Law of 1913 prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship" (i.e., all Asian immigrants) from owning land or property, but permitted three year leases. It affected the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers in California It passed thirty-five to two in the Senate and seventy-two to three in the Assembly and was co-written by attorney Francis J. Heney and California state attorney general Ulysses S. Webb at the behest of Governor Hiram Johnson."

"Chinese and Japanese residents living in America sought various ways to circumvent the Alien Land Law. A commonly-used way to get around it was to purchase land in the name of their US-born children (who, by birth, were automatically granted American citizenship), and then become the guardian of the property. This enabled Chinese and Japanese parents to effectively become de facto if not de jure managers and owners of land. This tactic was challenged in the courts."

"Jukichi and Ken Harada came to America with their son Masa Atsu in 1903 and to Riverside in 1905. They lived in and ran a boardinghouse and the Washington Restaurant in Riverside.

When their first American-born son died of diptheria in the boardinghouse, the Haradas sought a healthy home. But the 1913 California Alien Land Law prohibited aliens from owning property.

They purchased the home on Lemon Street in the names of their three American-born children, Mine, Sumi, and Yoshizo. Soon, several neighbors formed a committee to persuade the Haradas to sell their home, to no avail.

The committee went to the California attorney general's office and the Riverside Superior Court, bringing international attention to the case because of emerging Japan.

In 1918, Judge Hugh Craig of the Riverside Superior Court upheld the Alien Land Law, but ruled that the Harada children as American citizens were entitled to constitutional guarantees of citizenship; therefore, the Haradas could keep the house."

"In response to these tactics, the 1920 version of the California Alien Land Law included more stringent rules designed to put a stop to such circumvention. Among other changes, it introduced a provision that stated that if a person purchased land in another person’s name, it would be presumed that this was done with intent to bypass the Alien Land Law. This was a significant shift in the rules regarding burden of proof in state escheat cases involving land. Whereas before the State would have to prove its case, this was no longer the situation – it was now incumbent upon the defendant to prove that the purchased land was a bona fide gift rather than an attempt at getting around the land ownership restrictions.

Another, even more stringent provision introduced in the 1920 law prohibited assigning persons ineligible for naturalization as guardians of estate. The California Supreme Court , however, invalidated this prohibition in the 1922 Yano case (Estate of Tetsubmi Yano, 188 Cal. 645)."

Oyama vs the State of California 1948 US Supreme Court Case :

"Kajiro Oyama, Fred Oyama's (Petitioner) father, bought in 1934 six acres of agricultural land in Southern California, when Petitioner was 6 years old. The deed was executed to Petitioner. In 1937, a second parcel of land, adjoining the first one, was bought by Kajiro for Fred. As Petitioner's guardian, Kajiro was managing the land on his behalf.

"From the time of the two transfers until the date of trial, however, Kajiro Oyama did not file the annual reports which the Alien Land Law requires of all guardians of agricultural land belonging to minor children of ineligible aliens. In 1942, Fred and his family were evacuated from the Pacific Coast along with all other persons of Japanese descent. And in 1944, when Fred was sixteen and still forbidden to return home, the State filed a petition to declare an escheat of the two parcels on the ground that the conveyances in 1934 and 1937 had been with intent to violate and evade the Alien Land Law."

The trial court... findings were based primarily on four inferences: (1) the statutory presumption that any conveyance is with 'intent to prevent, evade or avoid' escheat if an ineligible alien pays the consideration; (2) an inference of similar intent from the mere fact that the conveyances ran to a minor child; (3) an inference of lack of bona fide at the time of the original transactions from the fact that the father thereafter failed to file annual guardianship reports; and (4) an inference from the father's failure to testify that his testimony would have been adverse to his son's cause."

The Supreme Court of California agreed with trial court's finding. The Oyamas appealed to the US Supreme court . The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of California. In the following ruling :

"In broad outline, the Alien Land Law forbids aliens ineligible for American citizenship to acquire, own, occupy, lease, or transfer agricultural land. It also provides that any property acquired in violation of the statute shall escheat as of the date of acquisition and that the same result shall follow any transfer made with 'intent to prevent, evade or avoid' escheat. In addition, that intent is presumed, prima facie, whenever an ineligible alien pays the consideration for a transfer to a citizen or eligible alien. We agree with petitioners' first contention, that the Alien Land Law, as applied in this case, deprives Fred Oyama (Petitioner) of the equal protection of California's laws and of his privileges as an American citizen. In our view of the case, the State has discriminated against Fred Oyama; the discrimination is based solely on his parents' country of origin; and there is absent the compelling justification which would be needed to sustain discrimination of that nature. The California law purports to permit citizen sons to take gifts of agricultural land from their fathers, regardless of the fathers' nationality. Yet, as indicated by this case, if the father is ineligible for citizenship, facts which would usually be considered indicia of the son's ownership are used to make that ownership suspect; if the father is not an ineligible alien, however, the same facts would be evidence that a completed gift was intended. The cumulative effect, we believe, was clearly to discriminate against Fred Oyama... The only basis for this discrimination against an American citizen, moreover, was the fact that his father was Japanese and not American, Russian, or English. But for that fact alone, Fred Oyama, now a little over a year from majority, would be the undisputed owner of the eight acres in question."

Note that in this ruling the Supreme court did not strike down the Alien Land Law itself as unconstitutional but only that the law as interpreted by the State of California interfered with Fred Oyama , the minor American citizen , from his right to equal opportunity to own land with other American citizens. .

"Although the Oyama case did not strike down the 1913 and 1920 California Alien Land Laws, it nonetheless proved to be an important precedent. In part relying on the Oyama decision, the California Supreme Court found the Alien Land Laws unconstitutional in Sei Fujii v. California, 38 Cal.2d 718, 242 P.2d 617 (1952), and California finally repealed them in 1956."

We have discussed in detail the history of the Alien Land Law . Let us now see how it applied to the Jue family . Jue Joe's friend was Otto Brant , a prominent member of a Los Angeles land syndicate. Jue Joe discussed with Brant his desire to own and farm land in the San Fernando Valley .

"The name of Otto Brant's land syndicate was the "Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company," formed in 1909. It had 30 members all prominent leaders of L.A. (Harrison Otis and Harry Chandler of L.A. Times newspaper, Wm. Mulholland the L.A. Water Commissioner, M.H. Sherman, Grant the founder of Santa Fe Railroad and California Bank, H.J. Whitley the subdivider, I.N. Van Nuys, to name a few). Together the Syndicate controlled Tract 1000. In it Brant reserved 850acres for his Title Insurance and Trust Company and, within the acreage, platted Van Nuys, Marian (Reseda), and Owensmouth Canoga Park). You could buy a small farm 1 to 10 acres, or a large farm 100 to 600 acres. In 1920 he reserved a large parcel for Jue Joe: 300acres of prime property from Vanowen St to Haynes, and from Hayvenhurst to Balboa Blvd. It was segregated from a large ranch owned by Mr. Van Nuys, later was part of the Anderson Ranch, then bought by Mr. Dickey who later sold to Jue Joe. Brant ( and later Brant's estate after his death in 1922) held the Jue Joe property as Trustee for the benefit of Corrine and Dorothy until they came of age. When they came of age the land was deeded to them pursuant to the original trust documents . Auntie Soo-Yin "

Unlike other Chinese and Japanese immigrants such as Mr. Harada and Mr . Oyama , Jue Joe had the help of a prominent Caucasian land owner and businessman in Otto Brant. Both Jue Joe and Otto Brant and their attorneys must have been well aware of the implications of the Alien Land Law , the Harada case , and the subsequent 1920 law . Jue Joe could have purchased land and put the land immediately in his American born daughters name with him as the guardian and without Mr . Brant's involvement. As we have seen above , this was a technique fraught with difficulty as demonstrated in the Oyama case. Jue Joe and Brant with the help of their attorneys must have agreed that the best course of action was for Jue Joe to give Otto Brant the money to purchase the land , then have Otto Brant buy the property and then create a trust , where Brant was the trustee and Dorothy and Corrine were the beneficiaries , with the stipulation that when Dorothy and Corrine came of age the property would be deeded to them . Corrine came of age in 1937 and Dorothy came of age in 1939 and the Van Nuys property were placed in their names as legal owners. . Subsequent to Dorothy becoming of age in 1939 additional Jue Family property in Porterville was purchased with Dorothy listed as the legal owner.

At the time of these events , the law was quite clear . While American born children of Chinese and Japanese aliens could be legal owners of property , and such property could be bought for them and held by their parents or others as guardians or trustees until they came of age , the law considered that the very fact that these were minor children of aliens ineligible for citizenship prima facie evidence of an attempt at circumventing the Alien land law and the burden of proof was on the purchaser to prove that this was a bona fide gift to the child and not an attempt at circumventing the Alien land law. This fact would have been made crystal clear to Jue Joe and Brant and to San Tong by their attorneys .
How about a will?
"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" Auntie Soo -yin .

Why didn't Jue Joe leave a will ? He had the advice of competent attorneys . I think the answer is quite clear . Under California law at the time , Jue Joe actually had no property to give . He was not able to own land under California law , and he was prevented from attempting to circumvent the law by placing the land in his American born children's names while retaining ownership. The only thing he could do was to purchase land for his American born children and apply to the court to be made a guardian of his children's land holdings until they came of age , or as Jue Joe did , give Otto Brant money to purchase the land under Otto's name and create a trust with his American born citizen children as beneficiaries when they came of age. He would under California law have no ability to try to circumvent the law by trying to hold title or ownership to the land or cause the land to be held in title or ownership for his Chinese born son , or his Chinese born wife. This was illegal and if there were written wills or other documents showing that the deeding of property was done in an attempt to circumvent the Alien land law , the State would have the right to begin proceedings to confiscate the land .
The only thing that the State allowed was that American born children of aliens including minor children had the right to own land and their rights as citizens could not be inhibited by the law. The Alien land law in effect at the time of Jue Joe's death was quite clear : property could be purchased for Dorothy and Corrine and held in trust for them , when Dorothy and Corrine came of age , the land was theirs and theirs with to dispose of as they saw fit. The Alien land law prohibited transfer of ownership to any Chinese born family member. The appellate court in it's final ruling on the Jue Family law suit stated that
: " Considering all the evidence before the court in the instant action , including Jue Joe's pride in the American citizenship of his daughters and grandchildren , the court's knowledge that any interest of a Chinese alien in California land was then subject to escheat proceedings, the inference is not only warranted but practically inescapable that Jue Joe , smart business man that he was , intended to exclude from "the family" who were the beneficiaries of the trust not only himself , but also his wife and sons who were born in China"
In fact , there was NO legal way under Alien land law in effect at the time for Jue Joe to make himself , his wife or sons born in China beneficiaries of the trust.
The Alien land act and the previous Exclusion act prevented Jue Joe from ever becoming a citizen , owning his own land , or passing on that land to his children as he saw fit after his death . It created an artificial and unequal separation between Chinese born brother and American born sisters in their ability to hold title to land and to become American citizens. Under the act , Jue Joe could not make his wishes known legally and clearly . The Alien land act set the stage for a painful family battle about inheritance that has left its scars on the generations that have followed.

Post Script:
Auntie Soo -Yin writes : "The Jue court case has been cited in 9 other cases. I found the Japanese case that Uncle Guy had read while he was in law school. The case citation is: Kaneda v. Kaneda, 235 Cal.App.2d 404 (1965). Scroll down to Sec.3 "California Alien Land Act" and you can read how the Jue ruling applied to the Kaneda facts. Their family story is similar to ours."

Further details of the Jue Family Law Suit can be found here .

To understand this document it is important to review some of the details and facts of the case . During the time the Alien Land Law was in effect Jue Joe paid for 100 acres of land in the Van Nuys Area. This was divided into two lots each with 50 acres, Lot 690 on which the main Jue Joe Ranch was located and Lot 691 which was adjacent to Lot 690 and comprised also of 50 acres. Lot 691 was held in trust for Dorothy and Corrine when they were minors and became theirs outright when they became of age. All parties to the lawsuit agreed that the intent of Jue Joe was to give the 50 acres of land comprising Lot 691 to Dorothy and Corrine for their ownership. Lot 690 was placed in a trust with Corrine as beneficiary and was deeded to Corrine when she came of age at a time when Jue Joe was still alive. San Tong contended in the initial trial that it was Jue Joe's intent that Lot 690 was to be held by Corrine in trust for his son and Jue Joe's first American born Grandson , Jack , and that Jue Joe intended that she should ultimately sign the deed over to Jack . It was his contention that Jue Joe wished Jack to hold ownership to lot 690 and that he , San Tong , manage farming operations on the land . Corrine signed a deed in favor of Jack at San Tong's request in 1942 . It was Corrine and Dorothy and May's contention at the trial that Corrine was told by Jue Joe to hold Lot 690 for the "benefit of the family" and that San Tong in having her sign over Lot 690 to his son and later managing and selling portions of the property on his own acted contrary to the interests of the "family" as a whole . Later the trial court found that there was conflicting evidence that Jue Joe intended for Corrine to sign over the whole of Lot 690 to Jack and determined that in fact Corrine held Lot 690 in trust for the "family" which the court determined to be Leong Shee, San Tong , Corrine Dorothy and San You's descendants who were each entitled to 1/5 of Lot 690. In the appeal , San Tong's attorneys changed their legal strategy and unable to prove that Jue Joe had in fact intended Corrine to deed the entire of lot 690 to Jack attacked the idea of a 5 way split of Lot 690 . Much of the appeal was an attempt to show that as wife of Jue Joe, Leong Shee either should have 1/2 of the property and that the trust for the family should apply only to the remaining 1/2 of the 690 property or that the idea of the trust for the family was unclear and , in fact , the entire property should belong to Leong Shee. The appeal court did not agree with this argument , upheld the trial court's enforcing of a a family trust for the entire of the 690 property and actually went further than the trial court and determined that Jue Joe actually intended to exclude himself, his sons born in China and his wife as beneficiaries of any family trust . The trust for "the family" actually meant just Dorothy and Corrine , , but because there was no attempt by Dorothy and Corrine to argue with the 1/5 division for San Tong and Leong Shee , there was no need for the appeal court to decide on the validity of these 1/5 divisions of the property .

"Considering all the evidence before the court in the instant action, including Jue Joe's pride in the American citizenship of his daughters and grandchildren, the court's knowledge that any interest of a Chinese alien in California land was then subject to escheat proceedings, the inference is not only warranted but practically inescapable that Jue Joe, smart business man that he was, intended to exclude from "the family" who were the beneficiaries of the trust not only himself but also his wife and sons who were born in China.

We are convinced that the evidence is sufficient to support the finding and conclusion of the trial court that Jue Joe himself was not included in "the family" as used by him in naming the beneficiaries of the trust.

Since no claim is made on the instant appeal that either San Tong or Leong Shee was entitled to less than the interest given by the judgment, it is not necessary to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to support the finding that they were intended by Jue Joe to be included in "the family" as beneficiaries."

There was also 90 acres of Land in Porterville that was in dispute . This land was deeded to Dorothy during Jue Joe's lifetime . Dorothy said that this land was a gift to her by Jue Joe and that her brother who was farming the land was acting only as her "foreman". It was San Tong's contention that he had actually paid for the land himself and that title was placed in Dorothy's name because of the Alien Land law . When the law became invalid for Chinese after the war ( as Chinese were allowed to become naturalized citizens) , he asked for Dorothy to sign deed over to him which Dorothy did but in the trial she contended that this was under duress and against her will .

. At the time of the appeal the Alien Land law had been ruled unconstitutional , alien's such as Leong Shee could own land . San Tong was a citizen and could own land . Unfortunately , at the time the deeds and trusts were constructed the prevailing law was that Leong Shee , and San Tong were completely excluded from ever owning land . Legal title had to be placed in the names of American born citizens such as Dorothy , Corrine and Jack (Jue Joe's grandson .) . As we have seen , Jue Joe was prevented from making his wishes clearly known legally and in writing because of the Alien land law . The irony is that that Jue Joe was very careful to provide for his family , he had done everything he could to insure that the land that he had worked so hard for would stay in the family's hands , but because of the legal climate at the time it was impossible for him to leave written directions as to how that land should be used by his family after his death . It was left for San Tong and Dorothy, May , and Corrine to prove to the court what Jue Joe's true intentions were. Ultimately the court found in favor of Dorothy , May and Corrine and against San Tong . By the time of the appeal 35 acres of Lot 690 had already been sold . The 15 acres remaining was held by Jack and later San Tong . Although the court found that San Tong and Leong Shee did each deserve 1/5 ownership of Lot 690, because they had already benefited from the sale and use of the land ( Leong Shee was living with San Tong ) , it was found that they had no title to the remaining 15 acres of land and this land was conveyed to Corrine , May and Dorothy as sole owners. The Porterville land was conveyed in total to Dorothy as sole owner.

1 comment:

  1. JR: You have explained the California Alien Land Act so clearly and have articulated its impact on the Jue family so well. Great job in analysis of a very complex law and subsequent rulings! Auntie Soo-Yin.