Save The Bay, ACLU of Rhode Island, RISAA and Common Cause Rhode Island respond to denial of “friend of the court” brief filed in controversial Block Island marina case
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – February 23, 2022 – On Thursday, February 17, Save The Bay, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association and Foundation, and Common Cause Rhode Island learned that the Rhode Island Supreme Court had denied their request to file a “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) brief in the long-standing controversy surrounding the proposed Champlin’s Marina expansion on Block Island. The court provided no reason for rejecting the brief, the filing of which was unopposed by the parties in the appeal.
“We are surprised and disappointed to learn that our joint brief will not be considered in the case,” said Save The Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone. “The news is particularly poignant given that the concerns surrounding the case involve a lack of transparency, circumventing public process. We stand by our objection to the settlement, and sustain our call for a fair and open process in the rulings that impact valuable natural resources.”
ACLU of Rhode Island Executive Director Steven Brown added: “Our ‘friend of the court’ brief sought to highlight the undermining of transparency and public participation that the lower court’s approval of the unusual mediation process in this case allowed. It is unfortunate that the Court’s rejection of the brief only further diminishes that participation.”
The partnering organizations filed the brief in support of the Attorney General and intervenors in the case, who are seeking to overturn a September 9, 2021 Superior Court decision. While the Superior Court found that the mediation between Champlin’s and the Coastal Resources Management Council approving the expansion was “proper and conclusive,” it did so despite the fact that other parties that had been involved in the litigation for years were not a part of the mediation. The brief claimed the court disregarded compliance with various critical environmental regulations and standards, including those requiring public involvement, and reversed the burden of proof, placing it on the intervenors to show that the closed-door deal was invalid, instead of leaving it, as required by law, on Champlin’s to show that its application meets all legal requirements.
“The denial of our ‘friend of the court’ brief—particularly the fact that it was denied without cause—comes as a surprise to all of us,” said Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association and Foundation Executive Director Greg Vespe. “Nonetheless, RISAA stands by our reasoning for submitting the brief: public process is a fundamental factor in how Rhode Island’s natural resources are managed. We need to commit ourselves to assuring that the CRMC is operating in the best interests of all Rhode Islanders.”
“It’s disappointing the court chose not to accept our joint brief in this important case,” said Common Cause Rhode Island Executive Director John Marion. “Our groups bring important arguments on the value of transparency in government processes and the court’s deliberations will be lesser without them.”
The decade-long marina expansion controversy has been filled with many twists and turns, all of which culminated in the behind-closed-doors mediation and ongoing litigation.