A lawsuit that began with complaints about the filming of the movie “X-Men: First Class” on a Georgia beach has morphed into a question of citizens’ rights to sue the state at all.
The Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday in Georgia Department of Natural Resources et al. v. Center for a Sustainable Coast et al.
The Center for a Sustainable Coast and Jekyll Island residents David and Melinda Egan brought suit against the DNR in 2011 after learning its Coastal Resources Division had been issuing “letters of permission” for construction projects and other activities the plaintiffs believed required the more rigorous and prescribed scrutiny of a permit under Georgia law.
Among the activities issued letters of permission were heavy equipment use on a Jekyll Island shorefront area in preparation for filming “X-Men” and more mundane municipal activities such as Tybee removing a heavy build up of dead marsh grass from its beaches.
The original suit was dismissed based on the state’s claim of sovereign immunity, the legal notion that the government is immune from lawsuits except when it consents to them. But the Court of Appeals found the Center could bring a claim for injunctive relief without “running afoul” of this doctrine.
“This is so because a governmental entity cannot cloak itself in sovereign immunity while performing illegal acts to the detriment of its citizens,” Chief Judge John Ellington wrote.