RIVIERA BEACH — After recently losing his ongoing battle against the city of Riviera Beach over his towed houseboat in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Fane Lozman is prepared to take his case to the highest court in the land.
Lozman, a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot, hired Stanford University law professor Jeffrey Fisher to take his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2006, The National Law Journal named Fisher, once a clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the most influential lawyers in the country.
"This case is far from over," he said.
Lozman watched in April 2009 as U.S. Marshals towed his gray, two-story houseboat from the Riviera Beach Marina with all of his possessions on board.
The city said Lozman failed to sign a new dockage agreement in 2007 that requires vessels moored at the marina to be registered, insured and capable of leaving the marina in case of emergency.
But Lozman claimed his 57-foot houseboat is a floating structure, has no engines and didn't meet federal law's definition of "vessel."
Lozman claimed the city was getting back at him for suing Riviera Beach over a $2.4 billion plan with a private developer to evict residents of the marina and give it a glossy makeover.
"The city has been obsessed with getting me out," Lozman said. "It's always been a personal vendetta against me."
Lozman, a 50-year-old software developer, won a prior case against the city in state court over the houseboat issue (the city tried to evict Lozman in 2006 when a resident claimed Lozman's dog bit him), the circuit appeals court didn't agree and ruled in favor of the city. Because the houseboat was capable of being towed, the court said that made it a vessel.
City Attorney Pamala Ryan said she wasn't surprised Lozman decided to appeal the decision.
"Every time he loses, he still feels he has to appeal to the next level," Ryan said. "It's what he does. But we don't believe there's any merit to any of his arguments."
Fisher doesn't see it that way.
"I decided to work on this case because I think the question of what constitutes a vessel for purposes of triggering federal maritime jurisdiction is a really important question, not just with residential structures like his, but also floating structures," Fisher said. "It's a question the Supreme Court might think it needs to answer."
Lozman said he's working with two other law firms as co-counsel and that he may hire a third. He wouldn't say how much he's spending on legal fees.
Since getting evicted from his houseboat, Lozman said he doesn't have a primary residence and that he and his dachshund, Lady, have been "drifting" around, mostly in Miami-Dade County.
"I've been a victim this entire time," Lozman said. "And why? Because I wanted to keep a marina public. This isn't over by a long shot."