Florida Man Wins Second Supreme Court Case in Five Years Against the City of Riviera Beach

A Florida man named Fane Lozman is on a roll.  (Yes, his first name is Fane; like ‘fame’ but with an ‘n’ instead of an ‘m’.)  In 2013, he won a lawsuit against the City of Riviera Beach at the United States Supreme Court.  And today, he won his second.

Fane Lozman (Gary Coronado | The Palm Beach Post  | Alamy)

In the mid-2000s, Fane was living on a floating house moored at the Riviera Beach marina.  (It was not a “houseboat,” as that distinction was important.) The City—apparently thinking that Fane’s two-level “plywood structure” was an eyesore at the marina—unsuccessfully tried to evict him from the marina, and so the City forced him to sell it at auction.  The City outbid the public and demolished the home the next day before Fane could even take his furniture out.  He ultimately won a lawsuit against the City over the destruction of his home, prevailing against the City in 2013.  He’s since procured a new floating home and remains living in Riviera Beach.  (Chief Justice Roberts would later describe Fane’s first home as “a house that got swept into the ocean somehow.”)

In the throws of his floating-home-related dispute in 2006, Fane also was a regular at city council meetings.  When the City started having closed-door meetings, he sued, arguing that their meetings violated Florida laws requiring that such meetings be open to the public.  The City eventually caved.  So suffice it to say that in 2006, Fane and the City were not on amicable terms.  He often attended the newly public meetings and spoke up during the public-comment period about what he believed to be corruption in local politics.

On November 15, 2006, Fane attended one such meeting.  Less than twenty seconds into his prepared remarks, a councilmember interrupted him and told him to stop.  Fane protested, insisting that he had a First Amendment right to speak at the meeting in accordance with the manner the City had provided to the general public.  When Fane refused to stop or leave, the councilmember ordered a police officer to arrest him and remove him from the premises.  (A video of Fane’s arrest and removal is here.)

Fane then sued the City, arguing that the City violated his First Amendment rights by arresting him and removing him from the meeting.  (We’ve twice reported on similar cases, here and here.)  Today, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor in an 8-1 decision.  The Court said that even if his arrest was lawful, he could still sue for violation of his First Amendment rights because the crux of his case was that the City had an “official policy” of retaliating against him.  And of course we just can’t resist the story of Fane Lozman.  What a guy.

Case: Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Fla., 17-21 (U.S. June 18, 2018) (opinion here)

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