Another day that we're tied up, so there won't be too much analysis. But we wanted to post this fascinating case out of the California Court of Appeal, Friends of Martin Beach v. Martin Beach 1 LLC, No. A142035 (Apr. 27, 2016).
As the caption of the case indicates, it involves beach access. Specifically, access to a Northern California beach that, despite some junky Yelp reviews, is apparently popular enough to spawn a "friends of" activist defense group. The Friends want access across private property owned by a really rich Silicon Valley guy. Before he owned it, they alleged, the owners let the public cross to get to the beach. The Silicon Valley guy, however, didn't continue that practice, and the lawsuit followed.
The owner claimed he had exceptionally good title, because the land, like much land in California, could trace title back to a Spanish or Mexican grant made while this was part of Alta California in the Zorro days. Title had been federally patented, and thus was free of the tidelands trust to which littoral property is usually subject. When the United States got California after the Mexican-American War, it promised in the resultant Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to recognize and protect preexisting Spanish and Mexican land grants "inviolate." In furtherance of this promise, the U.S. constituted a land commission which after a very lengthy process issued federal patents for the properties which qualified. That is a fascinating story in itself. Generally speaking, under the Equal Footing Doctrine, when a state enters the Union the new state gets title to tidelands, except in those situations where the federal government has issued such a patent.
The Friends asserted that they could access the beach pursuant to the tidelands trust, while Silicon Valley guy asserted his was one of those patented properties. The trial court granted the owner summary judgment on both his claim to patented title (thus there was no right of access under the tidelands trust), as well as his argument that the public had not acquired any rights by virtue of the alleged prior use (public dedication).
The Court of Appeal partially agreed, affirming his land is not subject to the tidelands trust. The U.S. Supreme Court (in another fascinating California case) had concluded that the trust doesn't apply to federally patented land in California. This land was similar. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the summary judgment on the public dedication issue, concluding that there remain disputed facts. Case remanded for more.
We'll have more after we have a chance to digest the opinion in detail. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend reading.