back to article Sun billionaire Khosla discovers life's a beach after US Supreme Court refuses to hear him out

The US Supreme Court has put an end to the embarrassing eight-year legal battle over access to a California beach by refusing to hear an appeal from Sun Microsystems co-founder and obstinate billionaire Vinod Khosla. The refusal makes it 0-4 against Khosla in his baffling crusade to restrict public access to a beach after he …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very rich man has temper tantrum

    when it turns out he can not just walk all over poorer people merely because he is rich but, like them, has to obey the law.

    I was going to say this applied to that orange guy with the weird hairpiece too, but he's not rich, is he?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very rich man has temper tantrum

      Trump is Trump and irrelevant.

      Why can't Kholsa take a page out of Larry Ellison and just go out and buy an island? Then you have no neighbors and can spend $$$ on trained sharks with lasers to patrol the waters around your private paradise...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Very rich man has temper tantrum

        Good idea on the island. Last I heard, Red Rock was still for sale. Look for it a couple hundred yards south of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, about 10 kilometers north-east of the rather exclusive Tiberon. I can't think of a better place for the dude to hang his hat.

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Re: Very rich man has temper tantrum

          I hear Ganymede is nice at this time of year; there will be no problems with people walking through his property.

  2. Mark 85

    I do hope he'll put his toys back in the pram.

    But since he's still throwing them out of it, he just proves that once an ass, always an ass. Doesn't matter how rich the ass is except they have lawyers.

    Since he doesn't live on the property, I don't see where his problem is other than he wants attention and to be able to throw his ego and money in everyone's face. He knew he law before he bought the place and if he didn't like it, he should have bought a place that didn't have the easement.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: I do hope he'll put his toys back in the pram.

      just the actions of a rich dickhead who thought he could just pay people off.

    2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: I do hope he'll put his toys back in the pram.

      I'm pretty sure that is a critical part of the argument. There is NO easement. What there is is a desireable beach which was converted to public use about forty years ago, and previous owners that did not mind compromising their property rights.

      Good (ie: entertaining) right of way disputes are like that. It takes decades for the rights to erode through common use.

      My grandfather had a neighbor that wanted to farm the road between her field and his. Kinda the reverse of this case. Got a great story out of it.

  3. whoseyourdaddy

    I was ready to round up the last of the purple boxes for the recycle service then I actually read the article.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      I miss the purple boxen. Hardware looks very boring these days (apart from big Cray systems).

    2. ToddRundgrensUtopia

      Weren't the purple boxes SGI?

      1. Nigel Campbell

        Or crimson, or teal, or black, dark brown or several other colour schemes.

        Sun boxes were mostly blue and purple during the 2000's.

  4. Peter Prof Fox

    Sauce for the goose...

    I presume the State of California owns most of the roads. Perhaps they should ask him to explain why he thinks he has a right to pass over their property.

    1. Hollerithevo

      Re: Sauce for the goose...

      Um, because there are laws that spell out the rights of way on public roads?

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

        Re: Sauce for the goose...


        According to Khosla, he is simply standing up for people's property rights. No one should get to decide what he does with his land and he shouldn't have to apply for permission to close it off to the public.

        Except he has run up against a long-standing California law, signed in 1976 and fiercely protected by locals, that says any property below the mean tide line belongs to the public and can be accessed by them.

        1. Ian Michael Gumby

          @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Re: Sauce for the goose...

          Not exactly.

          Its a bit more complicated than that.

          Yes you are correct about the 1976 law. However... here's the rub. He owns the surrounding land and its a bay. Going from memory, there's an out cropping on either side so he owns all of the shore such that there is no way to get to the mean tide line without crossing over his property. Its not like they could walk along the tide line and enter the bay.

          That law isn't being challenged or in question.

          Now going from memory, the lawsuit deals with easements. And while his expensive lawyers can try to be creative, they have an uphill battle trying to argue against the fact that there is an easement even though there was no actual easement recorded.

          He lost and now has lost his appeals.

          But here's the thing.

          One has to ask about his liability for anyone who crosses on the easement and trips and falls. Can he be sued?

          Thats an issue to be figured out...

          1. Mark 85

            Re: @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

            Last time I was at the California coast, about 10 years ago, there were signs to the effect: "Use the path at your own risk.". Don't know if the signs are still there though nor if that actually protected property owners.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

              Mark, yes the signs are still there (in some places). Yes, the property owners in question are covered. As a friend who owns a place a trifle further south of the beach in the article found out when a drunken lout tumbled down a path & wound up in the hospital. My friend got sued, the judge told the lout something along the lines of "Stupidity SHOULD hurt!" and threw the case out.

              1. Ian Michael Gumby

                @Jake ... Re: @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

                How much did it cost your friend to get the case tossed? ;-)

                Yeah, that's the thing.

                Each time someone does something stupid... its going to cost your friend.

                If your friend was as rich as Khosla he would be sued more times than not.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: @Jake ... @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

                  "How much did it cost your friend to get the case tossed?"

                  It cost him a stroll to the Palo Alto courthouse from his office at HP (maybe a mile, round-trip), his lunch break and a couple hours in the afternoon. He represented himself, on the advice of the Court. He actually received damages for his waste of time, to the tune of $1,500 (the Judge was not known for coddling idiots). I just called and asked, it turns out that he never collected ... seems the drunken lout flunked out of Stanford and was never seen or heard from again.

                2. Charles 9

                  Re: @Jake ... @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

                  "Each time someone does something stupid... its going to cost your friend."

                  So you sue to get your court costs paid back. It's easier if there are grounds for getting the guy declared a Vexatious Litigant. That way the more times he tries to sure, the more likely he'll (a) have to pay double: his AND yours, and (b) get declared Vexatious and get all your cases tossed out AND be locked out of suing further on penalty of criminal charges.

            2. Ian Michael Gumby

              @Mark Re: @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

              I think many missed what I was saying and focused on the legal liability...

              The point was that Khosla's lawsuit dealt with easements and this is where he will lose.

              (And has consistently lost. The beach (below tide) which is public property is 'land locked' (yeah I know about the water...) and thus an easement apprutenant ?sp? is required. (Meaning that you john doe, has the right to cross his land to get to the public beach because there is no other way to get there. )

              His only legal objection deals with potential legal liability.

              To your point, yes you can put up all the signs in the world, yet one slip and fall, you can bet your bottom dollar that a lawyer will suddenly appear and sue Khosla. Even if its frivolous, there's a cost.

              While the city should annex the path via eminent domain, Khosla demanded too much money.

              Here the city would have to sue Khosla to get the land at a more reasonable price. Khosla is the type of guy to push it where he's going to spend more on legal costs than the land is actually worth, just to be a bully. (His ego needs the win.)

              Like I said, the issue is complicated.

              In general, for all property owners, there can be some legal liability when you have easements for the public on your land. But for the most part. in general, most land owners aren't dicks.

          2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

            Re: @ IMG Sauce for the goose...

            You sound ... concerned.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

            I'm responsible for keeping the sidewalk in front of my house clear, and for repairs to the pavement should they become necessary. I don't own it. I own the property adjacent. That's just how it works. Khosla can't wrap his mind around the fact that property rights are not absolute. They are merely a concession to an individual granted by a community, and they are always conditional. Or perhaps, he knows this and wants to play a pure power game for his amusement. So he is either dumb and petulant, or just a prick.

            1. Ian Michael Gumby

              @AC Re: @ Throatwarbler Mangrove Sauce for the goose...

              I think in the court of public opinion, Khosla is a prick.

              But to your point. I'd check the property lines. Usually you own up to the curb and the sidewalk crosses over the city's easement. You are responsible to keep it clean. If you live in an area where it snows... and you don't.... you can be hit with fines from the city, but more importantly if someone gets hurt... you will be sued and could lose. (Homeowners insurance usually covers this, YMMV)

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Stuart Halliday

    Hmm, I wonder what America would make of Scotland's no law of trespass.

    You basically can't stop people walking across your land as long as they're not damaging it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      > I wonder what America would make of Scotland's no law of trespass.

      Guns - guns are always the answer

      Although hunting Scotsmen out of season is considered bad form, even in England

      1. Saruman the White Silver badge

        Dammit, I thought there is no "out of season" for hunting Scotsmen.

      2. Korev Silver badge

        Although hunting Scotsmen out of season is considered bad form, even in England

        This -->

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually, right-of-way is very ancient

      Even more than two millennia ago, the owner of land surrounding the land of another could not deny him to access his property. Roman fields were determined keeping public and free passageways among them - and the law for centuries explicitly endowed people with the rights to reach a property even when surrounded by others - with no need to buy access in some way.

      Actually, this moron is not protecting property rights, it's undermining them. If you can deny the use of a property by buying all the land around it, you're actually destroying property rights - you just give a weapon to the stronger one to force a weaker one to surrender its property.

    3. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker


      Just for the sake of argument: What if I argue that someone else's very presence constitutes "damage"?

      1. Danny 14

        is advise against shooting a drunk scotsman. You'll just make him angry.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "Just for the sake of argument: What if I argue that someone else's very presence constitutes "damage"?"

        You run the risk of a quick-thinking judge pointing out that you are "present" in the court room and then fining you for damaging government property, both there and all the way home, and then placing an injunction on you to keep off everyone else's property forevermore.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Just for the sake of argument: What if I argue that someone else's very presence constitutes "damage"?"

        Other than someone being highly contagious, I'm struggling to think how mere presence could constitute damage in and of itself (unless you consider wear and tear on the ground, treading on grass, weeds or creepy crawlies as "damage"). At a stretch, causing an obstruction.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Hmm, I wonder what America would make of Scotland's no law of trespass.

      You basically can't stop people walking across your land as long as they're not damaging it"

      You could ask Donald Trump what he thinks about it when it comes to people wandering alongside Turnberry golf course.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "You could ask Donald Trump what he thinks about it when it comes to people wandering alongside Turnberry golf course."

        Thanks for the downvote! Now Google the following terms:

        scotland trump golf course trespassing

  7. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It is not casually or lightly that I say this . . .


  8. a_yank_lurker


    Actually easements for access to private or public property are quite common in Feraldom. There is a principle that people must be able to have reasonable access to their property if it is does not have direct access. The only difference here is the easement is to a public beach that is state property. He was going to lose because he was blocking reasonable access to the public.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      @ yank .. Re: Easements

      I believe this falls under an easement appurtenant (That's the correct spelling)

      Had to deal with an issue on this topic with my condo association.

      IANAL, just spend too much time dealing with them...

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    But, but, but...

    What's the point of being obnoxiously rich if you have to follow all the same laws as the little people?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another f***ing nouveau brahmin

    Despite his 40 odd years living in Cal it seems that he still has not lost his caste arrogance. To be perfectly blunt maybe he should f*** off back to India because it seems he has not only learned zero during his time in the state but has shown a complete and utter contempt for the people of the state and country that made him very very rich.

    Some background. Until this incident the only people stupid enough to challenge the coastal access laws were a small minority in the Malibu Colony. They lost. Many times. And that was an very obvious privacy issue. They still lost. The long standing access issues in Hollister Range to some of the best surfing beaches were informally dealt with over the decades. Basically dont be a dick and the ranch management would not cause problems when you tried to surf the better breaks beyond Gaviota. Thats the way things are usually dealt with in California.

    Even before this case there was universal support for this law. The only people who ever complained were out of state developers. In this situation he should have his ass eminent domained to end the case once and for all. Why not set up a County Grand Jury to deal with the case. I can imagine the jury coming to a very quick conclusion that not only should he be E.D'ed but he should get exactly 1c for the land. Its an insult he very much deserves.

    As I said, the guy has showed a monumental arrogance towards his adopted country and has showed so little respect and such contempt for the people who live here that maybe its time he hopped on his private jet and pissed off back to Delhi. Because to be perfectly blunt I have seen or heard little indication over the years that he has made much attempt to understand or respect the people of his adopted country.

    To those of us who have, and have been shown so much friendship and goodwill by the locals in return, people like Khosla are an utter embarrassment and deserve nothing but contempt. Even by the remarkably low standards of Sand Hill Road this guy is an utterly contemptible little rat.

    1. 's water music

      Re: racists gonna race

      This must be one of those two times a day when the stopped clock is right (about the access issue and Khosla being an entitled dick) but still stopped racist

      1. Astara

        Re: racists gonna race

        Unless Brahman's are a separate race in India, it's not racist so much as "castist", as he speaks out against his presumption of caste privilege in a country that does not recognize it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: racists gonna race

        There needs to be a race equivalent of Godiwns Law. The time it takes for some white middle class suburbanite (they always are) who lives in a lillywhite environment who claims an opinion posted is "racist' because it expresses an opinion that actually has nothing to do with race but differs from any opinion expressed in the Guardian. Usually posted by those who actually have a very long experience of living in a multi ethnic environments.

        For a start brahmins are usually the very lightest skinned of Indians with the most "western" features. Its an Indo Aryan thing. If you have actually spent much time around Indian immigrants, not British Asian ones, you would get to hear about all the class / caste / race situation back in India and just how deep and all encompassing it is. And you would understand why the successful Indian immigrants in the US tend to be darker skinned and of lower cast. Because of the deeply ingrained prejudices back home.

        The only "racists" around here are those who see all comments regarding non anglos that are not effusive, gushing and patronizingly positive as being racist.

        If Khosla was white, had gone to a prep school, somewhere like Marlborough then Cambridge, a reasonable UK equivalence, given the way he acted he would be a wannabe Upper Class Prick. Instead he is a nouveau brahmin prick. Just like the British gentry. It takes many generations of the right pedigree to become one of the caste. So for the moment he is just a nouveau. He may have acquired the caste arrogance but he has none of their class amour propre. Which makes the true brahmins such delightful company. Just like their British equivalent.

        In my experience the only true snobs are nouveaus and the inverted snobs. Everyone else is just the usual mix of the good, bad and indifferent, just trying to get along.

        1. 's water music

          Re: racists gonna race

          ... Brahmin's not a race...

          I am aware that Brahmin is not a 'race' (albeit my understanding is pretty superficial so I am grateful for more fulsome explanation) but given that 'race; is largely a made-up concept that means pretty much what the user wants it to mean, my flippant remark was aimed more at the general concept of taking an arbitrary property shared by a number of people and associating it with a negative behaviour of an individual in order to make a disparaging point that attaches to both the individual (justifiiable) but also to the other arbitrary characteristic.

          FWIW from my position of white, middle-class, affluent privilege I think class/caste and race hierarchies are generally both iniquitous but, of course, few throw-away remarks on the topic are going to stand up to much scrutiny

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: racists gonna race

            Can we all just agree that the man is an ass and move on?

    2. Grooke

      Re: Another f***ing nouveau brahmin

      >I have seen or heard little indication over the years that he has made much attempt to understand or respect the people of his adopted country.

      Doesn't his belief that laws don't apply to him because of his wealth show that he has truly embraced American culture?

      1. jmcc

        Re: Another f***ing nouveau brahmin

        > Doesn't his belief that laws don't apply to him because of his wealth show that he has truly embraced American culture?

        Let me guess, another low information Brit who knows damn all about the US? Hence the smart arse comment. I'd rather takes my chances any day going toe to to in against some rich prick in any California court versus a UK court. Its in the UK were the rich pricks get to decide the outcome. The career of Robert Maxwell comes to mind. In the US the little guy has at least a sporting chance of prevailing.

        As for the Coastal Commission. By the this stage there is over 40 years of many many lawsuits, usually brought by rich pricks, where sooner or later some kind of sanity has prevailed. I say this as someone who believes that at least 80% of the actions of the CC over the decades are completely barking mad and more than one member of the Commission over the decades has been clinically insane. The CC is not as outright corrupt as CARB or the PUC but has been stacked with rich twit greenies who on mnay occasions of the years have redefined the phrase completely clueless.

        Be that as it may, in this case Khosla has gone so far beyond the pale in his attempt to pervert the course of justice and to try to intimidate state officials as to beggar belief. No one, no American, has ever tried such blatant bully boy tactics in a case like this. Which given some of the low lifes who have been involved in CC cases in the past, is quite an achievement. He has acted at all times like he was back in India, as if getting his way as a rich man was just a matter of paying off the local state politicians to make his legal problems go away. He strikes me as very much a BJP kind of guy so I'm sure thats they way he thinks it works here in Cal, just like it dos back home in Uttar Pradesh. Pay off the right guys and state laws dont apply.

        In this particular case it would not matter how much Khosla paid a Willie Brown to try to make the problem go away he would never ever prevail. In fact if Khosla had paid Willie Browns usual 7 figure retainer in cases like this he would have saved a lot of money. Brown would have told him from the get go to sell the easement for a peppercorn amount, make a big PR stunt out of it, and move on. Because Brown knows how the state works and just when big money can make things happen. And when it can't. Like this case.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Another f***ing nouveau brahmin

          You think the CC is barking? May I introduce you to the BCDC?

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. jake Silver badge

          Re: Another f***ing nouveau brahmin

          "another low information Brit who knows damn all about the US?"

          You're new here, aren't you? That type is practically an institution in these parts. Either ignore 'em as the ignoramuses that they are, or wind 'em up once in a while if you have a mind to. They are fun to play with, although a trifle easy.

  11. Jay Lenovo

    Project "Open Beach"

    Solaris for a time was open source, but that beach was closed too ;.(

    Owning a variable tide defined boundary requires room for fuzzy logic... or in this case the California Coastal Act.

    Not everything can or should be made proprietary.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What good is money

    if it can't inspire terror in your fellow man ? -- Montgomery C Burns

  13. MJB7

    Re: Sidewalk

    At least in England and Wales (I can't speak for Scotland), you *do* own the land to the centre of the road - it's just that you can't stop people walking/driving/etc over it (it's a public highway).

    So it is quite likely that the State of California *doesn't* own the roads (assuming a similar legal system to E&W)

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Sidewalk

      It's the other way in the States. In most locations, the legal right of way extends some distance past the edge of the road to ensure access and maintenance. Thus why fences can only be so close to the street (because you're not allowed to fence in the government's part of the lawn--the government grants you permission to use it so long as you don't block it).

      Where I live, rights of way for a single road may include a sizeable chunk of land on one side of it--in case the road needs to be twinned (which has been happening more and more often as population has been rising).

      1. OrneryRedGuy

        Re: Sidewalk

        In subdivisions in America (most suburbs), the local municipality typically owns the road, the sidewalk, and some of the land beyond the sidewalk. You, as the adjacent property owner, may be responsible for sidewalk cleanup after snowstorms or whatnot, depending on local ordinances. Most people seem to think they own everything up to the sidewalk or even the street, when they do not; a quick look at the plats will confirm it. It's not just a right-of-way.

        That said, the presence of rights-of-way to allow people access to their own property is an established legal concept (heck, there's one on my land which my neighbors use daily, and I don't begrudge them). This guy was a complete prat. I'd also recommend steering clear of his lawyers, who seemed more interested in billing him hours than offering him the legal advice that he had a snowball's chance.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Sidewalk

      @MJB7: That's news to both me and whoever drew the map of my house for the Land Registry. It is also news to whoever sends me those scary letters about how I am liable for the infrastructure only on my property. Those always clarify this by saying "from the pavement to my house".

  14. DonM.

    short time at Sun

    Do keep in mind that Khosla was only at Sun from 82 - 84, the very early days.

  15. Joe Gurman

    As Woody Guthrie wrote....

    As I went walking I saw a sign there

    And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”

    But on the other side it didn’t say nothin’

    That side was made for you and me.

    — This Land Is Your Land

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: As Woody Guthrie wrote....

      That's certainly the attitude of a lot of Californians, anyway.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: As Woody Guthrie wrote....

        It's not just Californians. As Canadian Les Emmerson of Five Man Electrical Band wrote:

        "And the sign said

        "Anybody caught trespassin'

        Will be shot on sight"

        So I jumped on the fence and I yelled at the house

        "Hey! What gives you the right

        To put up a fence to keep me out

        But to keep Mother Nature in?

        If God was here, he'd tell you to your face

        'Man, you're some kind of sinner'"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: As Woody Guthrie wrote....

          Trouble is, the landowner would probably counter, "Yeah, so are you!" and shoot anyway, post-scripting, "I'm an atheist, by the way."

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