Originally Posted as an Editorial in the Carmel Pine Cone
FOURTEEN YEARS ago, Clint Eastwood was hauled into civil court by a wheelchair-bound woman who claimed she’d suffered discrimination at Mission Ranch because of inadequate handicapped access, and she asked the court to order Eastwood to pay her millions of dollars.
The problem was, she made up her story of not being able to get into the ranch’s office or find an accessible restroom, and the jury saw right through the tale when it caught her in a lie about when she was there. The award: nothing.
That happy result wouldn’t have happened if Eastwood had buckled under and paid the woman at the outset to avoid the expense and trouble of trial. Instead, knowing her claim was BS, he insisted on seeing the lawsuit all the way
For his determination, Eastwood deserves the thanks of the Carmel business community — and, indeed, of businesses throughout the state. He exposed a phony ADA lawsuit, not only discouraging that particular plaintiff from trying it again, but making it harder for fake ADA suits to be successful anywhere.
A couple of weeks ago, we reported about another abusive lawsuit — this one filed by environmentalists against a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The lawsuit’s claim — that a business can be forced to stay open to the public even though its owner wants to shut it down — is ridiculous on its face. Still, the lawsuit is get- ting lot of attention in the media and from publicity-hungry politicians. Why? Because the business provided access to the beach.
It’s true that most California beaches are open to the public, but only below the mean high tide line. Above that, many beaches are private property, and it’s very well settled in state law that nobody has the right to cross private property
to reach a public beach. Don’t believe us? Try to cross El Sur Ranch (pretty much everything between Hurricane Point and Andrew Molera State Park) to get to one of the highly scenic beaches that are so inviting from Highway 1, and see how long it takes you to be cited for trespassing.
The beach that’s the subject of the lawsuit is called Martin’s Beach, which is not far from Half Moon Bay, and it was open to the public for many years, upon payment of a small admission fee.
But does that mean it has to remain open forever? No. No more than Disneyland or the local shopping mall has to remain open just because it always has been. And it doesn’t matter at all how much the public enjoys going to Disneyland or to the mall — the owners can shut them down any time they want to.
It also doesn’t matter whether the public has been crossing private property to reach something that belongs to the public. One of the basic rights of property ownership is the right to decide who can set foot on it — regardless of how long it may have been open, or how desirable something is that’s on the other side.
Since the law is firmly against them, the environmentalists who want Martin’s Beach to be reopened have used every dirty trick in the book to try to intimidate the owner into unlocking the gate. But the owner — venture capitalist Vinod Khosla — has resisted their campaign of harassment and blackmail, and for that he is a hero.
Of course, it’s true that access to beaches is a major public benefit, but it’s not the only thing that matters. So does respect for private property and the law.
For his willingness to stand up for what’s right despite intense pressure in the media and the courts, we hereby announce that Vinod Khosla has been selected, along with Clint Eastwood, for membership in the lawsuit hall of fame.