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Supreme Court takes case of Florida houseboat owner

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to hear the case of whether former Riviera Beach (Fla.) Marina tenant Fane Lozman's houseboat constitutes a "vessel" under maritime law.

In April 2009, Lozman watched federal marshals tow his two-story houseboat away from the city marina with his possessions on board. It was towed to the Miami River and later destroyed, the Palm Beach Post reported.

The city said Lozman failed to sign a dockage agreement that requires vessels moored at the marina to be registered, insured and capable of leaving the marina in case of an emergency.

Lozman says his 57-foot houseboat was a "floating home" with no engines and no boat registration and didn't meet the definition of a vessel.

He lost his case in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Subsequently, he hired Stanford University law professor Jeffrey Fisher to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Lozman, 50, a financial software developer and former Marine Corps pilot, told the newspaper that his case is expected to be heard in October.

City attorney Pamala Ryan said Jules Massee of the Tampa firm Hamilton, Miller and Birthisel, which specializes in admiralty and maritime law, will continue to represent the city in the houseboat case.

“We believe the 11th Circuit's interpretation of the law is on point and we are confident in our ability to successfully argue that position in front of the Supreme Court,” she said.

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