US Supreme Court Could Take Your Lake Michigan Beach Rights Away in 2019
If you're walking on a Lake Michigan beach in front of someone's home - are you on public property or private land? That's a question that could to be decided upon by the United States Supreme Court in 2019.
The court could have heard the case this year but one of the litigants, Indiana's Solicitor General asked for a postponement of the hearing until January.
The case that is looking to be heard by the top justices comes from an appeal of an Indiana Supreme Court ruling that decided at all of the state's Lake Michigan shoreline is owned by the public "in trust for all Hoosiers" to the "high water mark" or where the beach becomes land. The property owners in the case contend they own the beach up to the water line.
A similar case as heard in 2005 by the Michigan Supreme Court.
If the case before the federal supreme court is heard, it would set a precedent for all property rights on all of the Great Lakes.
The Times of Northwest Indiana reports that the petitioners are
asking the U.S. Supreme Court to definitively set the water's edge as the boundary of lake-adjacent properties for all five Great Lakes — with no requirement to provide public access to the beach....
[This case] is getting noticed by property rights groups across the country who have begun filing amicus, or "friend of the court," briefs, urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Gundersons.
The Minnesota Association of Realtors argues in its filing that the varying definitions of lake-adjacent property boundaries in the Great Lakes states calls out for the Supreme Court to conclusively determine where "the line between private and public property rights on lakefront property must be drawn."
The Minnesota Realtors also said that if the lakeshore is to be owned by the state, then adjacent homeowners are entitled to compensation for the beachfront property being taken from them.
A second amicus brief, led by the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C., and joined by Save Our Shoreline and the Whalesback Preservation Fund, both of Michigan, likewise contends that the Indiana Supreme Court ruling amounts to an unconstitutional taking of private property.
"If Indiana wanted to make the shoreline of Lake Michigan a public beach, it could have done so by explicitly exercising its power of eminent domain and justly compensating the landowners," they said.
There's no guarantee the United States Supreme Court will take up the case. 4 of the 9 justices would need to agree to hear it. If they don't the lower court rulings, would stand.