October 1, 2012
The City of Riviera Beach seized Fane Lozman’s houseboat after he did not comply with new city regulations. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s holding that the indefinitely moored houseboat was a “vessel” for purposes of maritime jurisdiction under 1 U.S.C. § 3. Lozman argues that courts should interpret “vessel” purposively and that his houseboat was not a vessel because its purpose was not to transport people or goods. The City of Riviera Beach counters that the definition of “vessel” requires a capability test that asks merely if the structure is capable of transporting people or goods. Additionally, both parties and the U.S. Solicitor General argue the subsequent purchase and destruction of Lozman’s houseboat by the City of Riviera Beach does not render the case moot because of a $25,000 security bond that the City posted. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case may reshape the role of state and federal courts in some maritime matters. The decision could also expand current maritime legislation to apply to structures such as casino boats or floating homes, or remove federal legislative protections for maritime lenders.
Whether a floating structure that is indefinitely moored receives power and other utilities from shore and is not intended to be used in maritime transportation or commerce constitutes a "vessel" under 1 U.S.C. § 3, thus triggering federal maritime jurisdiction.
The res in the putative in rem admiralty proceeding was sold at judicial auction in execution of the District Court’s judgment on a maritime lien and maritime trespass claim, Petn. App. 9a-10a, and subsequently destroyed, Petr. Br. 10-11. Does either the judicial auction or the subsequent destruction of the res render this case moot?
Does the definition of “vessel” in 1 U.S.C.