Houseboat is home, not vessel, justices rule
By The Los Angeles Times
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
WASHINGTON — A house that sits on the water is a floating home, not a vessel, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
The 7-2 decision upholds laws in California, Washington and other states that say houseboats are governed by local laws applying to homes, not maritime law that regulates vessels.
Justice Stephen Breyer said a vessel is something that is “actually used for transportation.” It is not “anything that floats,” he added.
The high court ruling is a victory for a Florida man who parked his gray, two-story houseboat at a marina in Rivera Beach, Fla. City officials later seized it for unpaid fees and had it destroyed. Their decision was upheld under federal maritime law.
The owner, Fane Lozman, appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that his home would have been protected from seizure under ordinary laws governing real estate.
The justices agreed and sent the case back to Florida, where Lozman can seek to recover a $25,000 bond that was set aside.
It is not clear what the ruling will mean for riverboat casinos, an issue the court did not discuss.
Joining Breyer's opinion were Chief Justice John Roberts, and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, dissented, in the term's first dissenting votes from a full court opinion. Sotomayor objected to the “reasonable observer” standard adopted by the majority.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Spyware in government computers ‘has Russian paw prints all over it’
- Kansas public school funding unconstitutional
- ‘Holy grail of guitars’ for sale in April auction
- Border Patrol ordered to stop shooting at vehicles
- Deputy accused of illegal stops
- United sizes up overstuffed carry-ons
- Accuser takes stand during court-martial
- Miranda read to sex assault accuser, 14
- Nuke plant safety improving, watchdog says — with cautions
- Traffic cameras rejected in Ohio ruling
- Justices decline to hear Hazleton anti-immigrant case