U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Pivotal Admiralty Jurisdiction Case with Substantive Ramifications and Implications for Individuals, Corporations Nationwide

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Greenberg Traurig Shareholder Kerri L. Barsh Appeared on Behalf of Petitioner in Case of Fane Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, FL

Kerri L. Barsh, co-chair of the national Environmental practice group at international law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, appeared on Monday, Oct. 1 before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the petitioner in the case of Fane Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, FL, No. 11-626. The case is one of a very select number accepted for review by the court.

The Supreme Court will consider the question of “whether a floating structure that is indefinitely moored receives power and other utilities from shore and is not intended to be used in maritime transportation or commerce constitutes a ‘vessel’ under 1 U.S.C. § 3, thus triggering federal maritime jurisdiction.” In light of the consequences of being determined as a "vessel" for purposes of federal tort, employment and maritime safety laws, the court’s decision will have significant implications to floating casinos, restaurants, and hotels.

This case illustrates the significance of whether a floating residential structure is a "vessel," not only as a trigger for federal maritime jurisdiction but also as a substantive matter with respect to the local and state regulation of floating residences.

“The question of whether a floating indefinitely moored structure is a vessel for purposes of federal admiralty jurisdiction is important to innumerable private and commercial owners of such structures, as well as to the regulatory ability of state and local governments across the country,” Barsh said.

“Owners of floating homes such as the one at issue in the Lozman case are prevalent nationwide, and that prevalence is growing as indefinitely moored floating structures are sometimes used as private residences, such as the Florida community at issue here,” Barsh added. “The cities of Seattle and Sausalito each have long contained hundreds of such structures. Indefinitely moored structures are also commonly used these days as casinos, restaurants and hotels. Within this context, the Lozman case has national importance because whether a structure constitutes a ‘vessel’ and therefore triggers federal maritime law has significant consequences.”

Barsh’s co-counsel include Supreme Court practitioner Jeffrey L. Fisher, co-director of Stanford’s Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic; Rob Bowling of Cobb & Cole; Ed Mullins and Annette Escobar of Astigarraga Davis; and Philip Nathanson of The Nathanson Law Firm.

Barsh has represented public and private clients on an array of environmental regulatory and litigation matters including due diligence, environmental assessment and liability matters, energy and infrastructure projects, wetlands and coastal permitting, complex land use matters, hazardous materials contamination, and other compliance and enforcement cases.

Greenberg Traurig’s Environmental practice is one of the firm’s oldest practice groups and consists of an integrated network of more than 60 lawyers and five environmental professionals in the United States and abroad. The firm’s results-oriented approach to problem-solving has led national companies and other organizations to turn to this team with their most challenging environmental issues.

About Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Greenberg Traurig, LLP is an international, full-service law firm with approximately 1750 attorneys serving clients from 35 offices in the United States, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In the U.S., the firm has more offices than any other among the Top 10 on The National Law Journal’s 2012 NLJ 250. For additional information, please visit http://www.gtlaw.com.

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Tina van der Ven
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