Breyer cites Mother Goose's three men in a tub in ruling

High Court Ruling a Relief for Floating Casinos

The southern Florida city of Riviera Beach used the law to have Mr. Lozman's two-story floating home "arrested" by a U.S. marshal and towed away from a city-owned marina in 2009. Riviera Beach said Mr. Lozman's home, a boxy plywood structure with French doors and no steering or motor, violated marina-safety requirements.

The city won in a federal trial court, seized the structure, auctioned it and—since the city itself was the winning bidder—destroyed it.

Mr. Lozman, who had tangled with Riviera Beach officials for years, said the city stretched the definition of a vessel beyond the bounds of common sense, turning a local spat into a federal matter.

The Supreme Court agreed in a 7-2 ruling by Justice Stephen Breyer that cited Pinocchio and Mother Goose's three men in a tub. The city argued that the floating home was a boat because it could be transported across water.

But there's the rub-a-dub-dub, said Justice Breyer: "Not every floating structure is a 'vessel,'" he wrote. "To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan ... or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not vessels."

People have been fighting about what counts as a boat for a long time. One case cited in the briefs and the opinion is nearly 150 years old. The American Gaming Association said the court's decision would have a positive impact on the gambling industry, which didn't want dockside casinos treated as vessels.

The group backed Mr. Lozman in the case. Mr. Lozman, 51, said the court's ruling—and the fact that it even agreed to hear the case—left him almost speechless. "I have fought this case for so many years," he said. He said he is now in line to collect monetary damages from the city.

Mr. Lozman is looking forward to an easier life. He said he might use whatever money he wins to buy another floating structure and park it again at the same marina.
Comment: Image source  Rub-a-dub-dub

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