Sophie Stocks –
Volume 70, Issue 2, 621-638.
Rising seas are encroaching on private properties along the California coast at alarming rates and rapidly changing the mean high tide line, which serves as the legal boundary determining the relative rights of the state and private property owners. This Note examines the existing framework for Fifth Amendment takings claims and the applicability of takings doctrine to disputes arising out of sea-level rise in California. Further, it examines nuances of Takings Clause jurisprudence likely to be implicated by sea-level rise, including the background principles exception, the public trust doctrine, and the avulsion doctrine. Ultimately, it concludes that the method for determining the mean high tide line needs modification if it is to serve as an effective means of determining who has a right to land impacted by sea-level rise. This Note also addresses the possibility of innovative Takings Clause claims as vehicles for impactful climate change litigation by exploring the possibility of asserting passive takings and taking claims grounded in public trust failures. Overall, this Note challenges existing assumptions and considers innovative legal challenges that are bound to emerge as the effects of climate change impact the California coastline. The importance of this extends beyond academic intrigue, as the state and private owners face daunting uncertainty regarding their respective rights as sea-levels rise.