Maine’s Beaches are Public Property

The Bell Cases must be Reexamined


The premise of the book is stated in its preface, i.e., that the 1986 and 1989 Bell cases (aka the Moody Beach cases) ceding title to Maine’s intertidal lands to adjacent upland owners and limiting public use rights on these lands to “fishing, fowling, and navigation” were wrongly decided. The court’s errors are numerous and inexplicable; they are laid out in a series of chapters; each chapter is extensively footnoted. The key reasoning, leading one to conclude that Maine owns the lion’s share of its beaches/intertidal lands in trust for the public, is laid out in seven core chapters. Each of these chapters is summarized in this synopsis. Standing alone each chapter provides compelling evidence that the Bell courts erred. Taken together, the assertion that the Bell cases should be reexamined seems irrefutable.

The purpose of the book is also stated in the preface; it is not simply the marshaling of judicial error. The laying out of Bell court errors serves the larger purpose of correcting these errors. Courts are human—they make mistakes. Countless times the U. S. Supreme Court and Maine’s Law Court have corrected mistakes of the past. Were this not the case we would be saddled forever with these mistakes, e.g., slavery, sodomy laws, black and white schools, etc. An early chapter in the book makes the point that all of the Law Court’s guidelines for when prior cases should be reexamined are met in settings where intertidal land ownership and use rights are on the table. In short, the Bell cases were wrongly decided and have created havoc. The Bell errors can and should be corrected.

A summary of the core chapters can be found by clicking the links to the right.