Connecticut's Highest Court Rules in Favor of Public Beach Access for Non-Residents

Affiliate: ACLU of Connecticut
July 26, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU of Connecticut
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HARTFORD, CT - - Relying in part on free speech arguments raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Connecticut Supreme Court today unanimously issued a strong ruling affirming the right of non-residents to use town parks and beaches throughout the state.

""Today's decision effectively opens all Connecticut town parks and beaches to non-residents,"" said Philip Tegeler, Legal Director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union. ""It also provides a strong precedent for other states.""

In February 1998, Brendon P. Leydon, a law student at the time, filed a lawsuit challenging a Town of Greenwich ordinance that restricts the use of parks and beaches by non-residents. Leydon lost his lawsuit and decided to appeal the court's decision.

The initial trial court's decision was reversed, at which point the Greenwich defendants decided to pursue their case in the State Supreme Court.

Last January, the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the appeals court's decision to open Greenwich beaches to the public.

Today's decision relies on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as the free speech clauses of the Connecticut Constitution. The Court found that the Greenwich Point Park was a "public forum" which must be open to "expressive activity" of any kind -- and that to limit the park to non-residents would prevent them from exercising those rights.

In the decision, the courts states that, "one easily can conceive of a wide range of core expressive and associational activity in which a nonresident might wish to engage at Greenwich Point that is perfectly compatible with the customary or normal activity there.""

The Connecticut Supreme Court's decision in Leydon v. Town of Greenwich, is available at www.jud.state.ct.us.

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