Porter, Indiana; December 5, 2019: A lawsuit filed today challenges a 2018 Indiana Supreme Court decision that took private beachfront land without compensation from families who have held the land for generations, even though those families were not parties to that case.

For decades, Randy and Kimberley Pavlock have brought their children and grandchildren to their cottage on Lake Michigan in Porter, Indiana, to escape city life in Chicago. Like many other property owners on the beach in Indiana, their property stretches across the beach and beyond the edge of the waterline.

The family agreed to allow an easement on the land in 1980, hoping to protect it from land grabs in the future. The easement allowed members of the public to walk along their private beach between the ordinary high-water mark and low-water mark along Lake Michigan. But in 2018, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that private property along Lake Michigan in the State of Indiana ended at the vegetation line, or “ordinary high-water mark.” With the stroke of a pen, the court wiped out private ownership of the beach below the high-water mark for nearly all private beach lot owners in Indiana, even those—like the Pavlocks—who were not part of the earlier suit.

The U.S. Constitution says that government may take property for a public use, but that it must pay just compensation for it. This is true whether the taking is done by a local government, a state government, or, in this case, by a court. Represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation, the Pavlocks are fighting back with a federal lawsuit against the State of Indiana and its officials charged with responsibility for enforcing that state supreme court decision.

“The Indiana beachfront is a beautiful natural resource, but that does not make it public,” PLF attorney Chris Kieser said. “If Indiana wants more public beach along the lake, it must pay for it. The state supreme court cannot simply assert that the beach has always been public when the law, actions of the local, state, and federal governments, and history itself say differently.”

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. More information is available at pacificlegal.org/HoosierBeach.


Complaint - Pavlock v. Holcomb et al
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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