Monday, October 03, 2005


Court dismisses lawsuit challenging underwater exploration law

September 30, 2005

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law that says treasures or artifacts found underwater in navigable waterways are the property of the state.

Scuba diver Dennis King filed the lawsuit against the Alabama Historical Commission, saying the law was vague because it did not define "cultural resources" and other items divers were prohibited from taking from the bottom of the state's rivers. In the suit, King described himself as an Alabama citizen who "desires to scuba dive in the rivers of Alabama and to find and recover old bottles, Civil War artifacts, arrowheads and fossils from the past."

The Supreme Court ruling came on the state's appeal of Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs' refusal to dismiss the lawsuit. In a 9-0 ruling written by Justice Tom Woodall, the Supreme Court says King does not identify any conflict he has with the Historical Commission or how he has been harmed by the law. The ruling also questions why King should be allowed to recover items from Alabama rivers.

"While King apparently believes that he has a right 'to find and recover' items from riverbeds in Alabama, his complaint does not identify, directly or indirectly, the source of any such right, and we are aware of none," the ruling says.

King's attorney, Erskine Mathis of Birmingham, said he was "absolutely disappointed," but otherwise declined to comment until he has a chance to read the opinion.

The acting director of the Alabama Historical Commission, Elizabeth Brown, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.


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