The bill would allow private parties to attain full legal title to certain public trust lands.
New Jerseyans have an inalienable right to tidal lands that passed down to them over hundreds of generations. As the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized in 1821, our right to tidal lands stems from Roman Law, and passed to New Jerseyans through the Magna Carta when we seceded from Great Britain.
Our right to these lands is a trust, and it works as all trusts do – simply stated, the State Legislature (the trustee) manages tidal lands (the corpus, or body of the trust) for the benefit of the people of New Jersey (the beneficiary).
The legislature has specific duties it must perform as trustee; among them, it must act in the best interest of the beneficiary. The legislature cannot give away or diminish our rights to tidal lands. These lands are literally our birthright.
The independent Office of Legal Services already advised the legislative committees that this bill is unconstitutional as written.
But even with a law that is ultimately illegal, the legislature can do a lot of damage. For example, it would probably be impractical to create new waterfront walkways and reduce public access on the Atlantic Coast, the Raritan Bayshore, and our tidal rivers under this new law. It could even imperil the existing Hudson River Walkway. This bill would unjustly reward private landowners for their intrusion onto public lands.