Judge Orders Silicon Valley Billionaire to Testify in Dispute Over Beach

May 8, 2014

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge has ordered tech billionaire Vinod Khosla to testify in a lawsuit challenging his decision to shut down public access to a popular beach.

As the trial opened Thursday, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach rejected a motion to quash a subpoena for Khosla (embedded at the bottom of this article), who paid $37.5 million to buy the disputed Martin’s Beach property in 2008. Defense attorneys said the subpoena amounted to harassment and argued that the manager of the property, not Khosla, was responsible for decisions like closing off access.

Khosla, a cofounder of Sun Microsystems, is expected to appear in court Monday.

Lawyers for the Surfrider Foundation said in opening arguments Thursday that Khosla violated the California Coastal Act when he blocked access to Martins Beach, just south of Half Moon Bay.

“The people of the state of California passed legislation in 1976 saying that the beaches are public property,” said Surfrider attorney Joe Cotchett outside court. “We now have an individual who steps up and says I’m going to challenge that, because under my constitutional rights, I can buy a beach and close it to the public.”

Defense attorney Jeffrey Essner argued that there’s no public right of access to the property because the previous owners routinely closed it for winter, private events and other occasions.

Attorneys for Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla have asked that the venture capitalist be excused from testifying in a public access dispute over a scenic stretch of San Mateo coastline.

Two companies owned by Khosla, Martins Beach 1, LLC and Martins Beach 2, LLC, bought the 100-acre Martins Beach property for $37.5 million in 2008. The new owners subsequently put up a gate on the main access road and blacked out a welcome sign on Highway 1.

Lawyers representing the non-profit Surfrider Foundation allege that the gate and other work on the property violate California’s Coastal Act.

On April 29, Khosla’s attorneys filed a motion to quash Khosla’s subpoena, which would prevent plaintiffs from calling him to the stand as a witness.

“He wants to hide behind a wall of lawyers instead of coming to court and explain what he’s done,” said Mark Massara, an attorney with the Surfrider Foundation.

Representatives for Khosla did not respond to an interview request. But the motion states that Khosla has no “unique knowledge” about the case and therefore should not be required to testify... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)