Sauvie Island

NAC intervenes, Sauvie Island Lawsuit Again goes to Court

A lawsuit brought by a couple who own property near a clothing-optional beach has gone to court again, this time with the Naturist Action Committee as an intervener in the case. At stake was the continued nude use of the beach.

Property owners Glen Mark and Teri Powers first sued the State of Oregon in 1996 over the nude use of Collins Beach on Sauvie Island, located northwest of Portland. The initial complaint asked for damages from the State for alleged diminished property value due to the presence of nude bodies at the nearby beach. Additionally, the plaintiffs sought to have the clothing-optional use of the beach declared to be a nuisance as a prelude to having the beach itself closed to nudity.

UPDATE

MAY 9, 2001 - The court has issued its ruling in the lawsuit. The clothing-optional status of Collins Beach itself is unaffected. The court has directed the State of Oregon to abate the private "nuisance," which the court has specifically declared to include nudity on or near the private property of the plaintiffs.

The abatement injunction does NOT include the elimination of nudity throughout the area that had been originally sought by the plaintiffs.

To read the complete texts, click on the links below.

Links:

FINDINGS

RULING

The Columbia County Circuit Court denied both the request for damages and the original request for elimination of nudity at the beach. In 1999 an Oregon state appeals court affirmed the denial of damages, but reversed and remanded the claim for injunctive relief  to the lower court  for reconsideration.

The Naturist Action Committee was keeping a close eye on the legal proceedings. When the threat of having to pay monetary damages was removed, the motivation of the State to defend against the remaining facet of the lawsuit became questionable. Naturists were not a party to the case at that point, but they were precisely the party that stood to be affected most directly by a possible outcome that might direct the State to make the beach off limits to nudity. Realizing that the State could not be expected to represent the interests of naturists, NAC retained a local law firm to represent it and filed a motion to be accepted as an intervener in the suit.

Plaintiffs Mark and Power are both attorneys and they have represented themselves throughout this matter. Viewing NAC's intervention as an obvious impediment, the plaintiffs attempted several times to have NAC removed from the case. Each time the motion was made, Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove denied it, saying finally that in his view, the Naturist Action Committee is "the most appropriate group to be representing the users" of the beach.

The two-day trial opened early on the morning of March 6, 2001, with an on-site visit to the clothing-optional beach by the judge and the attorneys involved in the case. Back at the courthouse, it became apparent rather quickly that State's Attorney Bob Petersen intended to put on no more than what he termed a "minimal" case. It fell to NAC's attorney Angela Stewart to defend the beach against the requests of the plaintiff to have it closed to nudity. Stewart, of the Portland firm of Williams, Fredrickson, had done her homework and was ready..

Mark and Powers claimed that "numerous" instances of open sex on and near their property were attributable to the clothing-optional nature of the nearby beach. To support their contention, the plaintiffs had subpoenaed from the sheriff's department 26 notebooks covering 10 years of patrolling at Collins Beach. But the detailed contemporaneous records showed fewer than eight such incidents in the ten year period, and on cross examination, the longtime deputy who had entered those reports said that only one or two were in locations where they could have be seen from the property of Mark and Powers. The deputy also indicated that similar incidents on the compulsorily clothed portion of the beach exceeded those in the clothing-optional area.

In her own testimony, plaintiff Teri Powers placed the number of overt sexual incidents over the years at five, but she quickly added that the number would probably rise to 120 if she included "hugging and kissing."

NAC's attorney Angela Stewart pointed out the statistical insignificance of the relatively small number of incidents over ten years, given the usage figure of at least 100,000 user-days logged at the beaches in the area over that period. In light of the deputy's testimony concerning similar incidents at the clothed beach, Stewart questioned that a causal relationship with the clothing-optional beach could be considered at all.

Testimony presented by NAC came in the form of affidavits offered to the court. Among those were the sworn statements of NAC board member Mark Storey, beach user Henry Yuan and past president of Friends of Sauvie Island Clothing Optional Beach (FOSICOB), Frank Wells. Each testified concerning slightly different aspects of the use of Collins Beach, including long term nude use that predates the arrival of the plaintiffs or their purchase of land on Sauvie Island. NAC's witnesses also served to establish that naturist users of the clothing optional beach view overt sexual activity there as inappropriate and a threat to the beach.

State's Attorney Bob Petersen affirmed that the State's interests in the case, though not antagonistic to naturism, did not include a defense of naturist activities. Petersen observed that it was appropriate for NAC to have become involved, and he said he was "quite pleased" that NAC had chosen to intervene.

Was NAC justified in taking the relatively unusual step of inserting itself into the middle of a lawsuit in which it was not a named party? Attorney Stewart has pointed out that it is usually in public hearings conducted by state agencies that bureaucrats consider matters like banning a specified activity from certain public lands. In those venues, the public is invited to speak. Had NAC not chosen to intervene in the lawsuit, naturists would have been entirely without a voice in the process.


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