15 January 2013

SCOTUS in Plain English: Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe Supreme Court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case at SCOTUblog below. For similar posts, click here.

Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida

Lozman owned a floating home that was parked at the Riviera Beach marina. After a dispute, the city tried to evict him. When that failed, they sought a lien to recover the payment of Lozman's debt under federal admiralty jurisdiction, claiming that the floating home was a "vessel" under such law. The Supreme Court ruled that although the home floated, it exhibited no other characteristics of a vessel (it had no propulsion, no method of storing electricity, etc.) and thus was not one. The pratical impact of this decision is that the government will not be permitted to use the more lenient lien rules under federal admiralty jurisdiction when dealing with floating homes (or, indeed, other floating structures like casinos).


Note: The floating home was sold at auction to the city, who had it destroyed. So there was some debate about whether the case was moot. However, since the city posted a $25,000 bond (in case Lozman prevailed), he could still recover and the case was decided on the merits.
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