Attorney For Amagansett Homeowners Seeks To Have Truck Beach Trespassing Charges Moved From Justice Court To Supreme Court

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The attorney representing a group of Amagansett oceanfront property owners along what is commonly known as “Truck Beach” has asked a State Supreme Court judge to remove from East Hampton Town Justice Court 14 trespassing summonses issued last month to a group of fishermen and hear the charges in his courtroom instead. EXPRESS FILE

The attorney representing a group of Amagansett oceanfront property owners along what is commonly known as “Truck Beach” has asked a State Supreme Court judge to remove from East Hampton Town Justice Court 14 trespassing summonses issued last month to a group of fishermen and hear the charges in his courtroom instead.

The 14 defendants, who include baymen and other fishermen, drove their vehicles onto the beach on October 17 in defiance of a state court ruling ordering the town to not allow such access and were ticketed when they left.

They claim an easement, dating to the 1882 sale by the Town Trustees of portions of Napeague to Arthur Benson, which reserved fishing rights for town residents, extended to the use of vehicles for that same purpose.

Earlier this year, after a long legal battle against the town, the homeowners won a suit, claiming ownership of the stretch of sand, which has long been a popular place for commercial fishermen to ply their trade and families to enjoy beach picnics.

A hearing on the trespassing charges had been scheduled in Town Justice Court on Wednesday, November 10, but it has been put on hold, according to defense attorney Daniel Rodgers of Southampton.

Instead, the 14 defendants, as well as representatives of the town and Trustees have been ordered to appear on November 29 in the Riverhead courtroom of New York State Justice Paul J. Baisley Jr., who will hear arguments over whether or not to move the trespassing charges to his court.

“It’s more bullying tactics from the homeowners and their lawyers,” Rodgers said on Monday.

By actively trespassing, Rodgers said the defendants were attempting to convince the town court to uphold the easement.

“The lawyers for the homeowners were afraid of what would happen in justice court,” Rodgers said. “They might get an adverse decision. The judge might do the right thing and say, ‘There is a reservation here, go fish.’”

Had the justice court ruled in the fishermen’s favor, the town would have legal reason to no longer ticket fishermen, he said.

Rodgers added that the defendants in the trespassing case were not challenging the ownership of the beach, merely the extent of the easement.

Stephen Angel, the Riverhead attorney for the homeowners, rejected Rodgers’s argument and said his clients, too, were simply trying to get a clear ruling on what the easement allows.

“I want to keep the interpretation of that in the court that has tried the case,” he said on Monday.

Rodgers said just because baymen once went down to the water with horse-drawn carts to launch their boats, doesn’t mean they should not be allowed to use pickup trucks and SUVs today. He compared it to a utility company not being allowed to use modern equipment to service power lines along a right-of-way.

Angel argued that the wording of the easement is clear. “It only permits the landing of fish and the spreading of nets,” he said. “They have a different view” and are hoping the justice court would interpret the easement in their favor, he said of the defendants.

Rodgers said it was “obscene” that the homeowners had “effectively yanked the case out of justice court, yanked it out of the hands of the district attorney, and moved into their corner.”

He said his clients were being deprived of their livelihood during the most productive time of the year when large schools of striped bass move westward along the ocean beaches on their annual migration to warmer water.

He said he would ask the court to require the homeowners to put up a $1 million performance bond to compensate his clients for their lost earnings should the court rule in their favor.

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