Monday, October 5, 2009

Surfrider Foundation Voices Beach Access Arguments to the United States Supreme Court

Washington, DC (October 5, 2009) - Surfrider Foundation petitioned the United States Supreme Court today to uphold beach access and public trust law in the state of Florida. Surfrider Foundation entered an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection v. Stop the Beach Renourishment case that is currently pending before the High Court. The case will determine the constitutionality of Florida’s beach management program with regards to the judicial takings doctrine, and fundamentally will decide when the beach belongs to the public or whether it is private land after beach renourishment has occurred.

The Supreme Court Petitioner in this case is asking the High Court to endorse the judicial takings doctrine to prevent the public from using the beach in front of the private property owner’s homes once the sandy beach has been “renourished.” This would contradict nearly 100 years of Supreme Court law on the issue and would also directly contradict the Florida Supreme Court, which interpreted the state’s common law that public beach access should be protected in the best interest of citizens in the state.

Surfrider Foundation’s brief, written by an expert team of pro bono attorneys at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, argues that the state’s current regime properly allocates the beach access rights to the public after any beach management efforts have occurred. Specifically, the brief argues that the Florida beach access provisions of the beach management program are constitutional on their face, that the private property owner’s private rights are not affected by the Florida law, and that the Judicial Takings Doctrine of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment are not applicable in this case. Furthermore, the Florida law at issue provides reasonable and appropriate measures to enable the State of Florida to discharge its obligations to the citizens of Florida as trustee, under Article X of the Florida Constitution, of the public’s rights of access to the State’s lands to navigable waters.

“This amicus brief effort will undoubtedly continue to bolster the Surfrider Foundation’s comprehensive fight to defend beach access rights and will complement our legislation and litigation beach access efforts in Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Hawaii, and elsewhere around the nation,” says Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Manager.

“While our organization does not endorse the practice of dredge and fill projects, the outcome of this case to the beach management program in Florida could cause further complication and/or loss of lateral beach access for the public,” says Ericka D’Avanzo, Surfrider Foundation’s Florida Regional Manager.

Click here to read the Brief
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