A Walton County judge issued a Monday order to clear up an error that appeared to greatly alter a previous customary use ruling.
A Walton County judge issued a Monday order to fix an error that appeared to greatly alter a previous customary use ruling.
The order was the third in a series of orders in the past week that could release hundreds of property owners from Walton County’s legal attempt to declare customary use along its 26 miles of beach. The third order corrected the mistake in the second order that was made when the court issued that order to correct a mistake in the first order.
Or as Judge David Green put it:
"This corrected amended order is issued by the court to correct scrivener’s errors in the order issued by the court on Oct. 25 and to address an unintended change discovered in paragraph 2 of the Amended Order entered by the court on Oct. 30."
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Green first issued an order last week that one attorney said would release about 700 property owners from Walton County’s legal effort to declare customary use along its 26 miles of beach.
Two days later the judge signed a second order, this one with altered wording that appeared to impact thousands more.
Green issued a third order Monday titled "Corrected Amended Order on Motion to Determine Jurisdiction and on Motion to Stay."
The orders came following last December, when Walton County took legal action to have all of its beaches declared public based on the common law holding that the coastline had been accessed for time immemorial by people seeking to recreate.
The action, required by state statute if the county wants to create a customary use ordinance, was opposed by thousands who own beachfront property and claim private property rights. Most of those opposed hired lawyers to "intervene" as defendants in the county lawsuit.
But not all attorneys sought intervention and on Oct. 25, in ruling on a motion filed by Pensacola attorney George Mead questioning the court’s jurisdiction over his clients.
Green ruled that he, as the presiding judge in the customary use case, had no jurisdiction over two homeowner’s associations represented by Mead. It was a decision, the judge said, that could impact about 700 other property owners.
"The court lacks jurisdiction over the person of all persons and entities who have appeared in this action for the purpose of challenging the jurisdiction over their persons and have taken no other actions which would submit them to the jurisdiction of the court," the order said.
The order also said, "the court has jurisdiction over the person of all persons or entities who have moved to intervene in the action."
The second, Oct. 30 order, was filed to change a very minor error in the body of the copy, according to Kent Safriet, one of the several attorneys who filed to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of his clients.
It was not clear how the second, much more eye opening language got introduced into the second order.
"The court lacks jurisdiction over the person of all persons or entities who have moved to intervene in the action."
"I don’t know what that means and I don’t know why that changed," Mead said before the corrected amended order was issued late Monday. "But clearly it changed. They (the first and second order) can’t be more different."
Safriet and other attorneys contacted Monday afternoon sensed a mistake had been made in producing the second order.
"I think that’s a typo, a mistake ... that’s just wrong," Safriet said, also before the correction was issued. "You submit to the jurisdiction of the court when you intervene."
The rushed effort to correct the errors in the second order regarding jurisdiction comes as preparations are made for two hearings which could further impact the customary use case.
Thursday at 2 p.m. a hearing will be held on a motion filed by the Edgewater Beachowner’s Association to hold Walton County in contempt of court.
The motion states the county is seeking a customary use declaration despite a legal settlement it arranged with Edgewater in 2010 in which the county agreed to allow Edgewater to "use its private beach property as it sees fit."
"In its consciously blind and zealous pursuit of a declaration of customary use, across all 26 miles of Walton County’s beaches, the county has acted in bad faith and should be found in contempt," the motion states.
On Nov. 12, Green will preside over motions by several attorneys to dismiss the county’s claims of customary use.