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Maritime Law--Lozman Case Revisited in Miami?



In Hoefling v. City of Miami, Case no.: 14-12482 (11th Cir. Jan. 25, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit revived almost all of Hoefling's claims. You ask, "Who is Hoefling?" Hoefling  lived on his sailboat Metis O moored off Dinner Key for nearly a decade—until the day he came home and it was gone. About three months earlier, an officer from the Miami Police Department's Marine Patrol Detail tagged Hoefling's vessel for lacking a sanitary device and a working anchor light. He had a deal to use the facilities at the nearby marina but quickly went out and reportedly bought what he needed to comply. Three months later while he was on a business trip, the City of Miami seized and destroyed his boat and all his belongings. As a result, he was homeless. He sued under § 1983, maritime law, and state law. He stated a claim under the Fourth Amendment for seizure and destruction without notice or cause and a “taking.” 
 
At the U.S. District Court level, the case was before Judge Joan Lenard. Judge Lenard dismissed the case before discovery with prejudice. Some reports suggested she tried to "trash" Hoefling's lawsuit. For example, the DBR suggested that Judge Lenard was familiar with the city side of civil rights suits, since her husband, Howard Lenard, former city attorney for North Miami Beach, is general counsel to the Miami-Dade County League of Cities. Miami is one of its 34 municipal members. Nevertheless, in her May 6, 2014, order granting defendants' motion to dismiss, Lenard relied heavily on the incident reports filed by the two Marine Patrol officers or on their behalf. Judge Lenard accused the Plaintiff of "attempt[ing] to pull the wool over the court's eyes" by dropping Marine Patrol incident reports she found credible but Hoefling said were fabricated.
 

Judge Adalberto Jordan U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Eleventh Circuit
 

Hoefling appealed. The opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit was written by Judge Adalberto Jordan. Judge Jordan found that "[a]fter a review of the record, and with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that the district court got some things right and some things wrong." The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court and directed the trial court to avoid "accepting as true the contents of the incident reports."
 
This case is reminiscent of the case of Lozman v. The City of Riviera Beach. Lozman kept his floating home in a marina in the City of Riviera Beach, where he signed a lease with the city, moored the floating home to the dock, and affixed the home to land based utilities. Later, the city council passed a revised dockage agreement and accompanying Marina Rules--some argued--to force Lozman and other "undesirables" out of the marina. Pursuant to these rules, the city informed Lozman it would revoke his permission to remain on the marina unless he executed a new agreement and complied with the new regulations. Lozman did not execute a new agreement and continued to remain at the marina. The city first filed a lawsuit in state court, which failed. The city then filed an in rem suit in federal court for trespass under federal maritime law and ultimately, destroyed Lozman's floating home.

The question becomes, "Are cities utilizing their police powers and/or the general maritime laws of the U.S. to remove what they consider derelict and unconforming vessels and other items floating in their waters?" You be the judge.  Some say these are two clear examples of this.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the Hoefling decision or wish to contact me, you may do so by writing to me at blog@miamimaritimelaw.co
 
 
 

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