We blogged on the appeal about the use and ownership of Goose Rocks beach on December 2, after oral argument in the Law Court. [Goose Rocks, muskets and takings law] The Court issued its decision on February 4, 2014. [Almeder v. Town of Kennebunkport, 2014 ME 12] We were getting ready to blog on the reasoning and significance of that decision, but the parties moved to reconsider. While one of those motions — from the folks living behind the beach, who were denied intervention — was rejected (so that intervention ruling is for all practical purposes final), yesterday, the Court issued an order saying it's thinking about the motions of the Town and the State and will hear argument on the same.
First, full disclosure – my husband works for the defendant Town of Kennebunkport.
Next, a primer on motions to reconsider. The relevant rule provides:
"(b) Motions for Reconsideration.
(1) A motion for reconsideration of any decision of the Law Court, together with the fee specified in the Court Fees Schedule, shall be filed with the Clerk of the Law Court within 14 days after the date of that decision. An original and seven copies of the motion and any supporting papers shall be filed and shall conform to Rule 9(f). The motion shall state with particularity the points of law or fact that the moving party asserts the Court has overlooked or misapprehended and shall contain such argument in support of the motion as the moving party desires to present. No response to a motion for reconsideration shall be filed unless requested by the Law Court. The motion is not subject to oral argument except by specific order of the Court.
(2) A motion for reconsideration will not be granted except at the instance of a justice who concurred in the decision and with the concurrence of a majority of the justices who participated in the original decision and are still available and qualified to act on the motion."
Motions to reconsider are frowned upon (hence they cost a whopping $600 to file), and they are rarely granted. Here, the Court said:
"The Town of Kennebunkport, the State of Maine, and Backlot Owners Alexander M. and Judith A. Lachiatto and Richard J. and Margarete K.M. Driver have filed motions to reconsider our decision issued on February 4, 2014. Almeder v. Town of Kennebunkport, 2014 ME 12, — A.3d —.
The motion filed by the Lachiattos and the Drivers [i.e. the people behind the beachfront owners] is DENIED.
Pursuant to M.R. App. P. 14(b)(1), the Town's and the State's motions will be considered at an Oral Argument in Portland on April 9, 2014, at 2:55 p.m., or as otherwise set by the Court.
On or before March 14, 2014, the Beachfront Owners, Almeder et al., may file responses to the Town's and State's motions to reconsider. No response shall exceed ten pages in length. We need no additional filings from the Town or the State."
In sum, we have a very rare situation here – more argument on a motion to reconsider. A big kudos to the Court for doing this from a general policy perspective. I am a big fan of allowing more argument, rather than less, and if the Court thinks there could be any benefit in hearing from the parties, the Court should be encouraged to keep talking, so that everything is worked out and clearly understood, both as to what the ruling is and what happens on remand.
My only musing here is, after the plaintiffs file their response per the Court's order, I wonder if it would be helpful if the Court told the parties what was on its mind before the new argument is held, to give them a heads up and make the argument as productive as possible. Sometimes courts, including the Maine SJC, does this in the context of when it asks for further briefing on a specific issue. If there's something in particular on the Court's mind, it seems to me that it could only help to give the parties some direction before they stand up.