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Does Lonely Island Have the Answer to Lozman's Boat Question?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Lonely Island may be able to resolve the second case the Supreme Court will hear on First Monday: Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach.

The question in the case is 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.

So how boat-y was this floaty? Forbes explains:

As yachts go, Fane Lozman's vessel was no Queen Mary. First of all, the two-story, 60-foot boat had no name, motor or way of being steered. She drew only 10 inches of water and had glass French doors on three sides, making the idea of an ocean passage nonsensical. Tied up at the dock in North Beach Village, Fla., she was the functional equivalent of a house down to the sewer line and electrical lines snaking onshore. That didn't stop town authorities from getting an order under marine law to seize the vessel and tow it to Miami, after accusing Lozman of failing to heed local ordinances and pay his dockage fees.

That maritime lien is the cause of the conflict. According to 1 U.S.C. § 3, the word "vessel" includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water. Appellant Fane Lozman argues that his floating structure should not be subject to a maritime law because it is not used, or capable of being used for transportation.

First, let's just address the elephant in the virtual room. Everyone knows the Eleventh Circuit name for this case, City of Riviera Beach v. That Certain Unnamed Gray, Two-Story Vessel Approximately Fifty-Seven Feet in Length, is ten times better than the SCOTUS name. The previous title positively reeks of disdain.

Second, Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach seems pretty straightforward if we just turn to the Lonely Island's "I'm on a Boat" to determine the Aristotelian essence of a boat.

In the song, the trio emphasizes that motion is crucial to the boating experience, singing, "Everybody look at me 'cause I'm sailing on a boat."

Lozman's home, however, could not be moved unless it was towed.

The group further expounds, "I'm on a boat and it's going fast and I got a nautical themed, Pashmina Afghan. I'm the king of the world, on a boat like Leo. If you're on the shore, then you're sure not me, oh."

In this verse, both the speed with which the boat travels, and the distance from non-boaters on the shore are critical. Again, Lozman's structure could not move on its own. Furthermore, Lozman kept sewer lines and shore power connected to his "floating structure," make his home easily accessible to those who wanted to visit.

By those standards, his home was not a boat.

Do you agree? Should Lozman's legal team adopt a Lonely Island legal strategy for oral arguments?

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