In case you are in the mood for some light reading, there are a few new articles at the Social Science Research Network that are worth checking out.
First, check out If It Looks like a Vessel: The Supreme Court’s ‘Reasonable Oberserver’ Test for Vessel Status by David R. Maass:
What is a vessel? In maritime law, important rights and duties turn on whether something is a vessel. In Stewart v. Dutra Construction Co. (2005), the United States Supreme Court held that a vessel need only be “practically capable” of maritime transport. But Stewart left open an important question: Should courts consider the owner’s intended use for the structure in determining whether it counts as a vessel under the statute? Earlier this Term, in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach (2013), the Supreme Court answered that question and held that courts should consider only objective facts about the structure’s design and activities. In the process, the Court announced a new test for vessel status based on the concept of the reasonable observer. This Comment begins by outlining the case’s facts and procedural history, then pulls back to survey the law of vessel status. Against this background, this Comment discusses the Supreme Court’s decision, and criticizes the Supreme Court’s new test for vessel status as misguided and unworkable.
The next Note continues the Lozman discussion. Check out Whatever Floats the ‘Reasonable Observer’s’ Boat: An Examination of Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida and the Supreme Court’s Ruling that Floating Homes Are Not Vessels by Kathryn Yankowski:
Local and state legislatures have taken active steps in developing a workable code of laws and regulations that apply specifically to floating homes. However, because these homes are on top of navigable waters and are physically capable of being towed across the high seas, there was a valid argument that such structures fall under maritime law and are therefore governed by federal admiralty statutes. The term “vessel” is defined in Section 3 of the U.S. Code as “every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” This definition is the threshold question that courts must answer before applying any federal law affecting vessels to a particular watercraft. The case law that developed since Section 3’s enactment has helped refine that broad definition into a more useable standard.
This Note provides a comprehensive overview of Section 3’s place in admiralty law, from its codification in the late nineteenth century, throughout its evolution over the generations, leading to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Fla., where it held that floating homes are not “vessels” as contemplated by federal statutes. Section II of this Note begins by introducing the parties and establishing the history involved in Lozman, a case that decided the question of whether a Florida resident’s floating home was a vessel subject to admiralty laws and federal jurisdiction. Historical case law and subsequent evaluations of maritime precedent, upon which both the Lozman Court and the parties relied, is detailed in Section III. This Note dissects the Lozman opinion in Section IV, discussing the Court’s reasoning for why it held that the floating home was not a “vessel” for jurisdictional purposes under Section 3. Section V then provides an analysis of the decision, examining the way the Court utilized precedent and incorporated traditional admiralty law tests. Lastly, Section VI lays out various policy concerns existing in the underpinnings of admiralty and property law that point in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision to exclude floating homes from federal regulation.
Finally, don’t forget the interesting jurisdiction arguments in the cleverly-titled Throwing Admiralty Jurisdiction a Life Vest: Preserving Jurisdiction for Maritime Torts that Do Not Involve Vessels by Monica Thoele:
Admiralty jurisdiction was created to protect maritime commerce and other traditional maritime activities. To adequately protect maritime commerce and other traditional maritime activities, torts occurring on navigable waters that do not involve a vessel must be able to establish admiralty jurisdiction. The current test for admiralty jurisdiction, which is a two-part test that contains both a locality and a connection test, does not require a vessel to be involved. Despite the Supreme Court’s test, many lower courts have arbitrarily imposed a condition that the suit must involve a vessel to establish admiralty jurisdiction for in personam tort claims. This vessel-requirement creates a test for admiralty jurisdiction that inadequately protects maritime commerce because some forms of maritime commerce, such as professional SCUBA diving, do not involve vessels. Furthermore, this vessel requirement excludes many operations outside of maritime commerce, like U.S. Coast Guard rescues, which may disrupt maritime commerce. Thus, to adequately protect maritime commerce, Congress or the Supreme Court must act to stop lower courts from requiring that a tort involve a vessel to establish admiralty jurisdiction for in personam tort suits.
(Note: I originally published this post on Navigable Waters: A Maritime, Longshore and Defense Base Act Blog.)