Judge dismisses lawsuit over Indiana’s Lake Michigan beaches

A federal judge has dismissed the latest attempt by property owners in a northwestern Indiana town to deny public access to Lake Michigan beaches.

U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio said there was no basis for three owners in Porter to sue to seek to undo a landmark 2018 Indiana Supreme Court ruling.

That ruling made clear that the shoreline of Lake Michigan is owned by the state and held in trust for the enjoyment of all Hoosiers.

The plaintiffs in the case, Porter lakefront property owners Raymond Cahnman and Randall and Kimberley Pavlock, sued the state over the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling. The case is Pavlock, et al. v. Holcomb, et al., 2:19-CV-466.

The landowners claimed that the decision amounted to an unconstitutional taking of their beachfront property. But DeGuilio said the issue isn’t subject to review in federal court because states have sovereign immunity under the U.S. Constitution.

Even if a legitimate federal issue existed, DeGuilio said the plaintiffs still would lose because they never owned the Lake Michigan shoreline and can’t be compensated, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

“The court’s decision affirms what we always knew to be true — that the shoreline of Lake Michigan belongs to every Hoosier for their use and enjoyment,” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said.

Christopher Keiser, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, the California-based property rights law firm representing the plaintiffs, did not immediately say whether an appeal would be filed.

“We’re disappointed in the decision. Along with our clients, we are considering our next steps,” Keiser said.

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