Lawyer who sued to open up Greenwich beaches to speak at Fairfield University


It is a classic David vs. Goliath tale. A young law school student jogs across a beach in Greenwich, only to be told he doesn't have a legal right to enjoy the public beach because he doesn't live in town.

Brendan P. Leydon did what many law students might do when deprived of their legal rights. He sued ... and he won. After years of litigation, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled July 26, 2001 that the public has a constitutional right to use Greenwich beaches.

Leydon, now a lawyer in Stamford, will discuss the lessons learned from the case when he speaks at Fairfield University on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m., in Room 254 of the Bannow Science Building. Leydon, whose case has generated more than 500 newspaper and TV stories, also will discuss the lessons he's learned in dealing with the news media.

The event is sponsored by the journalism program in the Fairfield English Department. It is free and open to the public.

Leydon said he considered the case to be the first in a series of cases he hopes will open every municipal beach on Connecticut's coast to anyone who wants to go. About a dozen other communities keep outsiders off beaches or limit their ability to park there, including Stamford, Norwalk, West Haven, Guilford and Madison.

Leydon studied constitutional law at Rutgers University School of Law in Newark. He filed suit against Greenwich in April 1994, then spent about $1,500, seven years and untold hours on the case before winning the favorable decision from the state Supreme Court.

The justices said that Greenwich's rules were unenforceable because they denied Leydon his right of free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court also said the town's restrictions violated the state constitution and that the private beach association that granted Greenwich an easement over its road to reach the park could not limit the easement to Greenwich residents.

Greenwich opened its scenic beaches to non-residents on Sept. 13, 2001, charging a fee to non-residents. Leydon has said he planed to continue to file lawsuits until the courts strike down every possible restriction a town might impose on outsiders, including higher fees and parking bans.

"We all live in one country, and we don't stay in one town all the time," Leydon told The New York Times.

"The parks and beaches belong to everyone. It's not really a revolutionary concept. It's not catastrophic. Five years from now, when all this settles down, people will be wondering what the big deal was about."

Contact: Dr. James Simon, (203) 254-4000 x2792

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 1, 2001

Vol. 34, No. 82