INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Supreme Court could decide by mid-February whether to hear a dispute over who owns the Lake Michigan shoreline in Indiana — and potentially along all five of the Great Lakes.
On Wednesday, the final legal filing by case participants was received at the nation's highest court, which should set the issue for review at the court's regular conference on pending cases scheduled for Feb. 15.
If four of the nine justices believe the question warrants Supreme Court action, they will vote to grant a writ of certiorari, the case will be scheduled for oral argument and eventually receive a ruling by the court.
A decision to grant certiorari typically is announced immediately following the justices' conference. A denial generally is included in the court's next regular order list, due to be released Feb. 19.
The justices also can "relist" a pending case for subsequent conferences if for any reason they did not reach a decision during earlier sessions.
Nearly a year ago, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Lake Michigan's shoreline is owned by the state, in trust for all Hoosiers, and the property of adjacent homeowners ends at the ordinary high water mark, or roughly the spot where beach becomes land.
Bobbie and Don Gunderson, of Long Beach, are challenging that decision. They claim lakefront properties extend to the water's edge, wherever that is at any given time, and property owners are entitled to decide who has access to "their" beach.
In their final submission to the court, the Gundersons tried to wave away the state's argument that certiorari should be denied because the Gundersons sold their lake-adjacent property in 2015.
They claimed that federal court rules permit them to continue litigating on behalf of successive property owners.
The Gundersons also said that due to conflicting lakefront property ownership rules in different Great Lakes states, it's necessary for the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the law by setting a national standard.
Indiana contends there is no federal dispute for the court to resolve, since the lakeshore ownership question has been answered by each Great Lakes state, and court intervention only would interfere with Indiana's legitimate state law determinations.