On October 9, 2013 – after more than a year of further hearings and deliberation – the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC)finally sent the Champlin’s Marina case back to the Superior Court, along with its (the CRMC’s) opinion that the CRMC denial of Champlin’s application to expand its marina 13 acres into the Great Salt Pond did not involve any violation of Champlin’s civil rights.
You can read about the origin of Champlin’s unusual equal-protection claim in my February 15, 2013 blog post. Champlin’s argument was that it’s civil rights had been violated because the CRMC had denied Champlin’s request to expand in the Great Salt Pond, while approving a request that Payne’s Dock could expand.
The CRMC conducted its hearing into Champlin’s equal-protection claim on five separate dates over almost a year: July 31 and November 16, 2012; February 12 and 26, 2013 and April 1, 2013.
What We Said
After the hearings, the parties submitted briefs to the CRMC. You can see CLF’s brief, filed on June 7, 2013. Basically, CLF made five main arguments:
- Both applications were treated in exactly the same manner, by applying the existing CRMC rules for marina expansions fairly and even-handedly to both applications,. [Brief, pages 5-6.]
- One difference between Champlin’s and Payne’s was that Champlin’s was already a huge marina, seeking a huge expansion; by contrast, Payne’s was a relatively small marine seeking a much smaller expansion. [Pages 6-7.]
- CRMC rules require that before an existing marina may expand, it must demonstrate efficient use of existing space. Payne’s had done so; Champlin’s had not. [Pages 8-9.]
- Expanding Champlin’s Marina would impinge on existing Town mooring fields in the Great Salt Pond; expanding Payne’s Dock would not. [Page 9.]
- Expanding Champlin’s Marina would pose serious risks to navigational safety in the Great Salt Pond; expanding Payne’s Dock would not. [Pages 9-10.]
On October 9, 2013, the CRMC sent its formal findings back to Superior Court Judge Kristin Rodgers. The gist of the five-page, single-spaced document is Finding 8(d) [page 4] which says:
The record reflects no evidence of disparate treatment, bias, procedural inequities, or selective enforcement in the review and consideration of the two applications, notwithstanding the disparate outcomes. In fact, direct, sworn testimony from the [CRMC] Executive Director and Chief Engineer indicated no disparate application of CRMC policies and no personal or professional bias against either applicant.
This finding is entirely correct, and will help Judge Rodgers to come to the same conclusion. You can read the full CRMC Findings of Fact.
One of the most gratifying parts of the CRMC’s Findings of Fact is the high degree to which those Findings track the recommendations in CLF’s brief. For example:
- CRMC’s crucially important Finding 8(a) [page 3] states that “Both applications were subject to the same standard of review – namely, those standards set forth in the RI Coastal Resources Management Program . . . .” This finding tracks exactly CLF’s “Preliminary Point” starting at the top of page 5 of our brief.
- CRMC’s Points 1 through 4 [pages 1-2] track exactly what CLF said in our brief under “Rational Basis # 1,” starting at the bottom of page 6 and running through page 8.
- CRMC’s Point 10 [page 5] is largely taken from the CLF brief on page 4.
One measure of effective litigation advocacy is that a decision-making body adopts a litigant’s central arguments as its own. I am very pleased to say that that is exactly what the CRMC did in this case.
Now this long-running case will return to Superior Court, where Judge Rodgers will rule on Champlin’s entire appeal – including, but not only, its equal-protection claim.