Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Jus Publicum Definition:

Latin: legal rights enjoyed by all citizens; more recently used in reference to the right of the public to access shorelines for fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing and other related purposes.
In Caminiti v Boyle, Justice Andersen of the Supreme Court of Washington wrote that:

"... state's ownership of tidelands and shorelands is historically referred to as the jus publicum or public authority interest. The principle that the public has an overriding interest in navigable waterways and lands under them is at least as old as the Code of Justinian, promulgated in Rome in the fifth century A.D. It is also found in the English common law, from whence our own common law is derived, as early as the 13th century A.D. The concept is a part of the established common law of the United States....

"This jus publicum interest as expressed in the English common law ... is composed of the right of navigation and the fishery.

"More recently, this jus publicum interest was more particularly expressed as the right of navigation, together with its incidental rights of fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, and other related recreational purposes generally regarded as corollary to the right of navigation and the use of public waters."

In Samson v City of Bainbridge, Justice Bridgewater of the Court of Appeals of Washington used these words:

"Jus publicum refers to the principle that the public has an overriding interest in the navigable waterways and the lands under them.... [T]he state can no more convey or give away this jus publicum interest than it can abdicate its police powers in the administration of government and the preservation of the peace."

In Nickerson v. Canada, Justice Gruchy of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia adopted these words to describe jus publicum:

"The nature of the public right of navigation has been the subject of considerable judicial comment over time, but certain principles have held fast. First, the right of navigation is not a property right, but simply a public right of way. It is not an absolute right, but must be exercised reasonably so as not to interfere with the equal rights of others. Of particular significance for this case is that the right of navigation is paramount to the rights of the owner of the bed, even when the owner is the Crown."


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