The recent Supreme Court case of Lozman v. The City of Riviera Beach sparked a flurry of news coverage on the technical legal definition of a vessel. Justices sided 7-2 with Fane Lozman, the former owner of a floating home which was seized and sold by city government under the rules and remedies of US admiralty law (a branch of US Federal law applying exclusively to vessels in navigable waters). Reversing the lower courts’ actions, the Supreme Court’s decision refined the definition of a vessel to exclude structures like Lozman’s home, and limited the future applicability of admiralty law to only cover structures that are clearly designed to transport people and objects across water. Given the ability of US Federal courts to hear cases involving vessels even beyond US territorial waters, the case of Lozman could potentially be relevant to seastead platforms, which may or may not fall under the new definition of vessel, depending on their configuration.
Research & Communications Coordinator Charlie Deist got on the phone with O.Shane Balloun, one the Institute’s legal advisors, to talk about the details of the case, and the bearing of the new definition on our legal strategy going forward. Balloun is the author of the original legal strategy document, The True Obstacle to the Autonomy of Seasteads: American Law Enforcement over Homesteads on the High Seas. He also practices admiralty law the state of Washington, and is one of the most qualified commentators on seastead legal strategy. We recorded the conversation in podcast form for the benefit of seasteading wonks and entrepreneurs alike.