Chief Justice Roberts Says Houseboat Case Was His Favorite Case This Term

NewTimes reports that Chief Justice Roberts stated in a judicial conference of the Fourth Circuit of Appeals that a maritime case, the Lozman case, was his favorite out of the 77 cases the Court heard this past term.  The Chief Justice commented that the Court had fun with this fascinating case.

For those that missed the decision when it was initially reported: Lozman, the owner of a houseboat in Riviera Beach, FL, challenged the definition of a “vessel” within the context of The Rules of Construction Act, which was used to seize and destroy his houseboat.  A vessel is defined in 1 U.S.C. § 3 as “every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.”  Lozman argued that the houseboat should have been considered a “floating home” rather than a vessel, which would put the boat outside Federal admiralty jurisdiction, because it was not used or designed to transport, and could only move by tow.

Focusing on purpose and actual use of the boat, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Lozman’s houseboat did not fall within the broad definition a vessel.

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