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US Supreme Court may see Lake Michigan beach ownership case

August 7, 2018

A years-long dispute over the ownership of Lake Michigan’s shoreline may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Elena Kagan last week approved a request from Bobbie and Don Gunderson’s attorneys to extend the deadline for seeking a U.S. Supreme Court review in their case to Oct. 5, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The Gundersons have alleged their Long Beach lakefront property should extend to the water’s edge, as shown on the deed to their property. Their attorney argued landowners have the right to limit who uses the beaches abutting their properties. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected that argument in December 2016 and denied rehearing to the case of Don. H Gunderson, et al. v. State of Indiana, Department of Natural Resources, et al., the following March.

After hearing oral argument last September, the Indiana Supreme Court in February ruled that the state owns the shoreline and holds it in trust for all residents. The ruling set the ordinary high water mark as the boundary between the state-owned land and the interests of private property owners. The high water mark is defined as the line on the shore created by the fluctuations of water.

In May, the state Supreme Court denied the couple’s motion to reconsider the February decision.

Attorneys Aaron Van Oort and Nicholas Nelson said they’re seeking additional time to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court because they’ve only recently been retained by the Gundersons and still are working to “familiarize themselves with the record in the case and to prepare the petition.”

A petition requesting action by the U.S. Supreme Court must typically be filed within 90 days of a final decision by a federal appellate court or a state court of last resort.

The high court receives between 7,000 and 8,000 certiorari petitions annually. A case is reviewed if four of the nine justices agree to accept it. The justices decided about 70 cases during the 2017-18 term.

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