(WPRI) — A federal judge struck down a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the state’s new shoreline access law.
U.S. District Court Judge William Smith ruled that the Rhode Island Association of Coastal Taxpayers (RIACT) “lacked the proper standing to sue.”
RIACT, which is made up of anonymous beachfront property owners, filed the lawsuit over the summer in an attempt to reverse the law, which improves public access to the state’s roughly 400 miles of coastline.
The lawsuit specifically targets R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha, Department of Environmental Management Director Terry Gray and Coastal Resources Management Council Executive Director Jeffrey Willis.
Smith determined that, since none of the defendants were involved in enacting the new law, the lawsuit is misguided.
“[RIACT] seeks the wrong relief from the wrong defendants before the wrong court,” he wrote.
RIACT argues that the new law is unconstitutional and “denies them of their right to exclude non-owners from private beachfront property without just compensation.”
The lawsuit also states RIACT fears prosecution and citation if its members “eject or dissuade people from encroaching on their property.”
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But Smith isn’t buying it.
“Dressing up the claim as a ‘fear of prosecution’ is like putting lipstick on a pig,” he wrote. “Standing cannot solely rest on speculation.”
Smith also cited the “disconnect” between RIACT’s concerns and enforcement of the new shoreline access law.
Neronha lauded Smith’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
“I remain grateful that the General Assembly codified Rhode Islanders’ constitutional rights to shoreline access into state law, and my office remains committed to protecting those rights against any legal challenge,” he said in a statement.
R.I. Senator Mark McKenney, who spearheaded the shoreline access legislation, also believes Smith made the right call.
“I’m happy with any decision that’s going to allow this law to stand, because this is a law that benefits so many people in Rhode Island,” he said. “We did not take anything away from people. I would submit those rights have existed since colonial times and before.”
Dave Breemer, the attorney who’s representing RIACT, said they’re not giving up and will be considering alternative legal options.
“RIACT is disappointed in this result, but its members will not give up their constitutional property rights,” Breemer said.