PORTLAND PIPE LINE CORPORATION et al v. CITY OF SOUTH PORTLAND et al
ORDER DEFERRING RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR VIEW re: 206 Defendants' Motion for View By JUDGE JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. (CCS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MAINE
PORTLAND PIPE LINE
CORPORATION, et al.,
CITY OF SOUTH
PORTLAND, MAINE et al.,
ORDER DEFERRING RULING ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR VIEW
The Court defers final action on a motion for a view until trial, when it will be
better able to assess the need for a view in light of the evidence the parties have
presented. At the same time, the Court addresses a number of its concerns about a
view that militate against granting the request for one.
With a bench trial scheduled to commence on June 18, 2018, on April 25, 2018,
the city of South Portland (the City) filed a motion requesting that the Court view
“certain properties that are at the heart of the case in connection with the trial
scheduled to begin on June 18, 2018.” Defs.’ Mot. for View at 1 (ECF No. 206). To
assess the purpose of the ordinance and the resulting local benefits, the City claims
“it will be important for the Court to understand how close PPLC’s [Portland Pipe
Line Corporation] facilities are to sensitive areas such as schools, parks, residences,
and potentially developable properties, as well as to view the facilities in context for
a visual assessment of construction impacts . . . .” Id. at 1-2. The City suggests that
the vistas and the scope of the structures at issue are not capable of re-creation in
still or video photography. Id. at 4-5. The City also points out that the properties are
roughly four miles from the courthouse in Portland, and estimates that the total time
for transportation and site-inspection may take less than 90 minutes.
Id. at 6.
Specifically, the City asks the Court to view: (1) Bug Light Park/Portland Breakwater
Lighthouse (Madison Street), (2) the so-called Cacoulidis properties (1 Madison/149
Front/Cushing Point), (3) Kaler Elementary School (165 S. Kelsey Street), and the
South Portland High School track (637 Highland Avenue). Id. at 2.
On May 16, 2018, PPLC filed an opposition, requesting the Court deny the
motion or, in the alternative, view several additional properties, such as Rigby Yard
and several nearby petroleum facilities currently in operation. Pls.’ Opp’n to Defs.’
Mot. for View at 1, 4-5 (ECF No. 216). PPLC argues that aerial photography will offer
sufficient or superior evidence of the relevant spatial relationships, and says the City
has not adequately explained why it claims photography is inadequate. Id. at 2-3.
PPLC contends that the City’s motion is based on “numerous incorrect, or at least
highly contested, premises,” including the City’s claim that flow reversal would result
in an intensification of the existing uses, and how construction of seventy-foot
smokestacks might mar aesthetic vistas when they have not been built and might not
be required. Id. at 3. PPLC also highlights the logistical difficulties of any view,
which would “attract numerous concerned spectators and media representatives. . .
.” Id. at 3-4.
On May 30, 2018, the City filed a reply. Defs.’ Reply Mem. in Resp. to Pls.’
Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot. for View (ECF No. 217). The City denies PPLC’s suggestion that
a reversal would not result in an intensification of use, and points out that a factual
dispute of this kind “is not a reason to reject a view.” Id. at 1. The City also claims
that the public can view the properties at any time and says there is no requirement
that the public accompany the Court on a view. Id. at 2. Finally, the City argues
that the additional properties that PPLC asks the Court to view “are only marginally
relevant to the case, and view of those additional properties would not assist the
Court in reaching a decision.” Id.
Most of the cases discussing the propriety of site-inspections involve jury trials.
A decision to permit a jury view is “entrusted to the sound discretion of the trial
court.” United States v. Crochiere, 129 F.3d 233, 236 (1st Cir. 1997). This discretion
is part of the trial court’s authority to decide “matters relating to the orderly conduct
of the trial and the mode of presenting evidence.” United States v. Passos–Paternina,
918 F.2d 979, 986 (1st Cir. 1990). In making this determination, a court may consider
such factors as “the orderliness of the trial, whether the jury would be confused or
misled, whether it would be time-consuming or logistically difficult, and whether
cross-examination had been permitted regarding the details of the scene.” Id. An
additional factor is whether “the view would . . . have presented any clearer view of
the evidence than was achieved through the use of photographs at trial . . . .” United
States v. Pettiford, 962 F.2d 74, 76 (1st Cir. 1992).
The same discretion and principles generally apply to bench trials. See 2
McCormick on Evid. § 219 (7th ed. 2016) (“[I]t is frequently said that even without
express statutory authorization there is an inherent power in the trial judge to order
a view by the jury, or, in a judge-tried case, to take a view personally” (footnote
omitted)). A bench trial blunts some of the difficulties inherent in a jury view, such
as the special precautions required to limit interaction among the jurors, the parties,
non-party participants, and the subjects of the view. See Clemente v. Carnicon-Puerto
Rico Mgmt. Assocs., L.C., 52 F.3d 383, 386 (1st Cir. 1995), abrogated on other grounds
by United States v. Gray, 199 F.3d 547 (1st Cir. 1999). Even so, most of the difficulties
remain. A site-visit will require special security precautions and additional expense
and trial time for court personnel. See Rooney v. Sprague Energy Corp., 495 F. Supp.
2d 135, 137 (D. Me. 2007) (noting the time for a site-visit would likely exceed the
movant’s estimate because of “[t]he logistics of transportation, security, traffic,
snacks, bathroom breaks, and miscellaneous delays . . .”).
Here, any reduced logistical difficulties from the absence of a jury are offset by
the additional complexities of allowing members of the public to attend the site-visit.
Although the City takes the position (without citing any authority) that the Court
may exclude members of the public from the view, the Court is dubious. The First
Circuit has reiterated “that public monitoring of the judicial system fosters the
important values of quality, honesty and respect for our legal system.”
Providence Journal Co., Inc., 293 F.3d 1, 9-10 (1st Cir. 2002) (quoting Siedle v.
Putnam Investments, Inc., 147 F.3d 7, 10 (1st Cir. 1998)).
Here, the properties that the City wishes the Court to view all appear to be
public property.1 While it is true, as the City says, that “the public is able to see the
properties at issue at any time it wants, whether or not the Court takes a view,” this
does not answer what the Court should do if members of the public wish to attend the
view. The City suggests that “[t]here is no requirement that it [the public] accompany
the Court on a view, and Plaintiffs cite no case to the contrary.” Id. at 2. In light of
the presumption of public access, it is not the Plaintiffs’ burden, it is the City’s burden
to convince the Court that it may either bar the public or restrict the way the public
accesses a public space, and the City has cited no case that would allow it to do so.
The Court is troubled by the notion that it would treat a view differently from other
court proceedings for purposes of public access. Yet, if the public were present at a
view of a public space, it is also true the Court would have little effective control over
what the public said or did during the view.
Also, if the Court were to grant the City’s request for a view, PPLC’s alternative
request for a view of some of its property would present different issues of allowing
public access to private property and what controls, if any, the Court should impose
on public participation in PPLC’s view request.
The Court is not clear about the so-called “Cacoulidis” properties mentioned in the City’s
motion. Defs.’ Mot. for View at 2. The City cites the declaration of Charles Haeuser for a description
of the Cacoulidis properties. Id. (citing Declaration of Charles Haeuser, ECF # 92 at pp. 8-11). Mr.
Haeuser’s declaration discusses redevelopment plans for an area surrounding PPLC’s property, but
the Court was unable to locate any reference in Mr. Haeuser’s declaration and his attachments to the
Cacoulidis properties. There is a references to the “Cacoulidis property” on page twenty-one of chapter
six of the City’s comprehensive plan update, but it does not add any clarity. Declaration of Jesse
Harlan Alderman Attach 29 Excerpts of South Portland, Maine Comprehensive Plan Update at 25
(ECF No. 90).
From the Court’s perspective, if there is a case where the public could be
excluded or restricted from a view, this is not it. This case has been brought about
by a very public debate in the city of South Portland, resulting in the enactment and
defense of the ordinance, and at each hearing, the Court has observed a number of
onlookers, presumably members of the public, who by their continuing physical
presence have evidenced an active interest in these proceedings. The Court would be
loath to issue an order excluding them from a portion of the hearing or an order that
attempted to predict behavior and curtail it before it occurred.
Although the City suggests a view can be accomplished with little or no
comment from the parties and others, it is unclear how a visit would be useful to the
Court without context from knowledgeable individuals explaining what the Court is
viewing. Meanwhile, the Court must create an accurate record of any conversations.
Clemente, 52 F.3d at 386; Lillie v. United States, 953 F.2d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 1992)
(“When a judge engages in off-the-record fact gathering, he essentially has become a
witness in the case. The presiding judge ‘may not testify in that trial as a witness’”)
(quoting FED. R. EVID. 605). Creating an accurate record can be difficult in outdoor
spaces. See Plaquemines Holdings, L.L.C. v. CHS, Inc., 597 F. App’x 763, 771 (5th
Cir. 2015) (“Although a court reporter was present, the reporter could not hear all of
the judge’s conversations at the site-visit due to the ambient noise”).
Finally, the Court cannot know whether other means—such as testimony,
photographs, videotapes, aerial shots, and maps—will be sufficient to grasp the City’s
health, development, and aesthetic concerns and PPLC’s separate issues, or whether
a site-inspection would facilitate the Court’s task.
Although the Court has the
concerns set forth in this order, the Court withholds final determination on the City’s
request and PPLC’s alternative request until after it has seen the other evidence and
can weigh the need for a view. If the City wishes to press its request for a view, the
Court expects the City to present the Court with a satisfactory response to the Court’s
concerns as set forth in this order. Similarly, if PPLC wishes to have the Court take
a view of the properties it has listed, the Court expects the same from PPLC.
The Court DEFERS ruling on the Defendants’ Motion for View (ECF No. 206).
/s/ John A. Woodcock, Jr.
JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 1st day of June, 2018
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