Exploding Vocabulary

By: Michael M. Berger
– Daily Journal

In Manatt Appellate Senior Counsel Michael Berger’s latest Daily Journal column, he discussed the controversy surrounding how certain language may be cited in court, using a recent appellate case which turned on the meaning of the word “development” after a Los Angeles-based group of surfers harassed outsiders to actively exclude them from the area without a permit.  

In the article, Berger explained that the City of Palos Verdes Estates was accused of violating the California Coastal Act for being complicit with this “surfer gang” —known as the Lunada Bay Boys—to deny outsiders access to the beach without a development permit. The plaintiffs argued that the language in the Coastal Act surrounding the definition of “development” qualified the surfers’ act of restricting access to the beach as a development. Because this conduct was deemed a type of development, the court concluded the city must be held responsible for failing to obtain a coastal permit for the Bay Boys’ actions. “Although the city should certainly face liability for complicity in harassment of non-local surfers (including assault and vandalism), expansion of the Coastal Act to include obtaining a permit to harass cannot be the answer,” Berger concluded. 

Daily Journal subscribers can read the full article here.  



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