Decade-Long Legal Battle Ends Over Houseboat Owners’ Rights
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Having twice failed to get its way at the U.S. Supreme Court, the city of Riviera Beach has agreed to pay $875,000 to settle a decade-long legal battle that began over a floating home.
The settlement was reached Monday and will be presented to the City Council for approval next month, the Palm Beach Post reported.
The city of Riviera Beach has already spent more than $1 million in attorneys’ fees since 2006, when its fight began with Fane Lozman, a retired U.S. Marine who became a millionaire after inventing software used to track stock trades.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the city had no right to seize and destroy Lozman’s 60-foot floating home by invoking centuries-old maritime laws.
Lozman had docked the home in the city marina and began protesting a now-abandoned multibillion-dollar redevelopment plan. The Supreme Court left it up to a district judge to determine how much the home was worth, and Lozman received nothing.
After both sides returned to the Supreme Court, the justices said in 2018 that they were deeply disturbed that Riviera Beach council members silenced Lozman by having him arrested while he was speaking to them during a 2006 meeting, and sent the case back to lower courts.
U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks took over the case in December and told both sides to resolve their differences. The proposed settlement would cover legal fees; the city also agreed to pay Lozman a single dollar.
Lozman said his lawsuits clarified important areas of law.
In the floating home case, which Chief Justice John Roberts called his favorite of the term, the court cleared up a murky area of law, ruling that just because something floats, doesn’t make it a boat.
In the First Amendment case, Lozman said the high court put government agencies on notice that they can’t silence critics.
“You can fight city hall, but you better be able to give up half of your adult life to do it,” Lozman said.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.