The new lawsuit accuses Rhode Island of illegally seizing private land and usurping the authority of the state supreme court.
Rhode Island homeowners have sued in state court over a law that grants the public a right of access to their private beachfront property.
Opponents of the law previously challenged it in federal court, as Legal Insurrection reported. The federal judge dismissed that case, which asserted a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on taking private land without compensation.
Within days of the dismissal, the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Counsel, a defendant, announced “a walking tour aimed at informing people on issues related to the new . . . law.”
— Rhode Island CRMC (@RI_CRMC) September 21, 2023
The state lawsuit includes additional claims, alleging the law violates a similar “takings” provision in the Rhode Island Constitution. The lawsuit also claims the law violates the separation of powers by purporting to overrule the state supreme court’s interpretation of the demarcation line between public and private beachfront property.
The dispute stems from a provision of the Rhode Island Constitution that ensures public shore access without defining the demarcation line between public and private property.
In 1982, the Rhode Island Supreme Court decided that the mean high tide (MHT) line, defined as “the arithmetic average of high-[tide] heights observed over an 18.6-year [lunar] cycle,” was the appropriate demarcation line between public and private property.
Under that decision, land seaward of the MHT line was public property, while land landward of the MHT remained private property. The new law, however, grants the public access to private beach property landward ten feet of the newly defined “recognizable high tide line,” which is “the water’s surface level at the maximum height reached by a rising tide.”
This redefinition, the lawsuit argues, “confiscates Plaintiffs’ properties, as well as the property of other owners of shorefront property in Rhode Island,” without compensation, violating the U.S. and Rhode Island Constitutions.
The lawsuit also argues the law’s attempt to overrule by statute the Rhode Island Supreme Court violates separation of powers. The state could only overrule the state supreme court, according to the lawsuit, by amending the state’s constitution.DONATE
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