throbber
(Slip Opinion)
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` OCTOBER TERM, 2012
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`Syllabus
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`1
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` NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
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`
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` being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
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` The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
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` prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
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` See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
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`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
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` Syllabus
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` LOZMAN v. CITY OF RIVIERA BEACH, FLORIDA
`
`CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
`
`THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
` No. 11–626. Argued October 1, 2012—Decided January 15, 2013
`
`Petitioner Lozman’s floating home was a house-like plywood structure
`with empty bilge space underneath the main floor to keep it afloat.
`He had it towed several times before deciding on a marina owned by
`the city of Riviera Beach (City). After various disputes with Lozman
`and unsuccessful efforts to evict him from the marina, the City
`brought a federal admiralty lawsuit in rem against the floating home,
`seeking a lien for dockage fees and damages for trespass. Lozman
`moved to dismiss the suit for lack of admiralty jurisdiction. The Dis-
`
` trict Court found the floating home to be a “vessel” under the Rules of
`Construction Act, which defines a “vessel” as including “every de-
`scription of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable
`of being used, as a means of transportation on water,” 1 U. S. C. §3,
`concluded that admiralty jurisdiction was proper, and awarded the
`City dockage fees and nominal damages. The Eleventh Circuit af-
`firmed, agreeing that the home was a “vessel” since it was “capable”
`
` of movement over water despite petitioner’s subjective intent to re-
`main moored indefinitely.
`Held:
`
`1. This case is not moot. The District Court ordered the floating
`home sold, and the City purchased the home at auction and had it
`destroyed. Before the sale, the court ordered the City to post a bond
`to ensure Lozman could obtain monetary relief if he prevailed. P. 3.
`2. Lozman’s floating home is not a §3 “vessel.” Pp. 3–15.
`
`(a) The Eleventh Circuit found the home “capable of being used
`
`. . . as a means of transportation on water” because it could float and
`proceed under tow and its shore connections did not render it incapa-
`ble of transportation. This interpretation is too broad. The definition
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`of “transportation,” the conveyance of persons or things from one
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`LOZMAN v. RIVIERA BEACH
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`Syllabus
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`place to another, must be applied in a practical way. Stewart v. Du-
`tra Constr. Co., 543 U. S. 481, 496. Consequently, a structure does
`not fall within the scope of the statutory phrase unless a reasonable
`observer, looking to the home’s physical characteristics and activities,
`would consider it designed to a practical degree for carrying people or
`things over water. Pp. 3–5.
`
`
`
`(b) But for the fact that it floats, nothing about Lozman’s home
`suggests that it was designed to any practical degree to transport
`
`persons or things over water. It had no steering mechanism, had an
`unraked hull and rectangular bottom 10 inches below the water, and
`had no capacity to generate or store electricity. It also lacked self-
`propulsion, differing significantly from an ordinary houseboat.
`Pp. 5–6.
`
`
`
`(c) This view of the statute is consistent with its text, precedent,
`and relevant purposes. The statute’s language, read naturally, lends
`itself to that interpretation: The term “contrivance” refers to some-
`thing “employed in contriving to effect a purpose”; “craft” explains
`that purpose as “water carriage and transport”; the addition of “wa-
`ter” to “craft” emphasizes the point; and the words, “used, or capable
`of being used, as a means of transportation on water,” drive the point
`home. Both Evansville & Bowling Green Packet Co. v. Chero Cola
`Bottling Co., 271 U. S. 19, and Stewart, supra, support this conclu-
`sion. Evansville involved a wharfboat floated next to a dock, used to
`transfer cargo, and towed to harbor each winter; and Stewart in-
`volved a dredge used to remove silt from the ocean floor, which car-
`
`
`ried a captain and crew and could be navigated only by manipulating
`anchors and cables or by being towed. Water transportation was not
`
`
`the primary purpose of either structure; neither was in motion at rel-
`
`evant times; and both were sometimes attached to the ocean bottom
`
`or to land. However, Stewart’s dredge, which was regularly, but not
`
`primarily, used to transport workers and equipment over water, fell
`within the statutory definition while Evansville’s wharfboat, which
`was not designed to, and did not, serve a transportation function, did
`
`not. Lower court cases, on balance, also tend to support this conclu-
`sion. Further, the purposes of major federal maritime statutes—e.g.,
`admiralty provisions provide special attachment procedures lest a
`vessel avoid liability by sailing away, recognize that sailors face spe-
`
`cial perils at sea, and encourage shipowners to engage in port-related
`
`
`commerce—reveal little reason to classify floating homes as “vessels.”
`Finally, this conclusion is consistent with state laws in States where
`
`
`floating home owners have congregated in communities. Pp. 6–11.
`
`
`
`(d) Several important arguments made by the City and its amici
`are unavailing. They argue that a purpose-based test may introduce
`a subjective element into “vessel” determinations. But the Court has
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` 568 U. S. ____ (2013)
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`Syllabus
`considered only objective evidence, looking to the views of a reasona-
`ble observer and the physical attributes and behavior of the struc-
`ture. They also argue against using criteria that are too abstract,
`complex, or open-ended. While this Court’s approach is neither per-
`fectly precise nor always determinative, it is workable and consistent
`and should offer guidance in a significant number of borderline cases.
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`And contrary to the dissent’s suggestion, the Court sees nothing to be
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`gained by a remand. Pp. 11–14.
`
`
`(e) The City’s additional argument that Lozman’s floating home
`
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`was actually used for transportation over water is similarly unper-
`suasive. P. 14.
`649 F. 3d 1259, reversed.
`BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
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`C. J., and SCALIA, THOMAS, GINSBURG, ALITO, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.
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` SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KENNEDY, J., joined.
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` Cite as: 568 U. S. ____ (2013)
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`Opinion of the Court
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`1
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` NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
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` preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
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` notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash-
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` ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
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` that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
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`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
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`_________________
`
` No. 11–626
`_________________
` FANE LOZMAN, PETITIONER v. THE CITY OF
`
`
` RIVIERA BEACH, FLORIDA
`
`ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
`
`
`APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
`
`
`[January 15, 2013]
`
` JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.
`
`The Rules of Construction Act defines a “vessel” as in-
`
`cluding “every description of watercraft or other artificial
`contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of
`
`
`
`transportation on water.” 1 U. S. C. §3. The question before
`us is whether petitioner’s floating home (which is not self-
`propelled) falls within the terms of that definition.
`
`
`In answering that question we focus primarily upon the
`phrase “capable of being used.” This term encompasses
`
`“practical” possibilities, not “merely . . . theoretical” ones.
`
`Stewart v. Dutra Constr. Co., 543 U. S. 481, 496 (2005).
`We believe that a reasonable observer, looking to the
`
`home’s physical characteristics and activities, would not
`consider it to be designed to any practical degree for carry-
`ing people or things on water. And we consequently con-
`clude that the floating home is not a “vessel.”
`I
`In 2002 Fane Lozman, petitioner, bought a 60-foot by
`
`12-foot floating home. App. 37, 71. The home consisted of
`a house-like plywood structure with French doors on three
`sides. Id., at 38, 44. It contained a sitting room, bedroom,
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`LOZMAN v. RIVIERA BEACH
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`Opinion of the Court
`closet, bathroom, and kitchen, along with a stairway
`
`leading to a second level with office space. Id., at 45–66.
`An empty bilge space underneath the main floor kept it
`
`afloat. Id., at 38. (See Appendix, infra, for a photograph.)
`After buying the floating home, Lozman had it towed
`about 200 miles to North Bay Village, Florida, where he
`moored it and then twice more had it towed between
`nearby marinas. In 2006 Lozman had the home towed a
`further 70 miles to a marina owned by the city of Riviera
`Beach (City), respondent, where he kept it docked. Brief
`for Respondent 5.
`
`After various disputes with Lozman and unsuccessful
`efforts to evict him from the marina, the City brought
`this federal admiralty lawsuit in rem against the floating
`home. It sought a maritime lien for dockage fees and
`damages for trespass. See Federal Maritime Lien Act, 46
`U. S. C. §31342 (authorizing federal maritime lien against
`vessel to collect debts owed for the provision of “neces-
`saries to a vessel”); 28 U. S. C. §1333(1) (civil admiralty
`jurisdiction). See also Leon v. Galceran, 11 Wall. 185
`(1871); The Rock Island Bridge, 6 Wall. 213, 215 (1867).
` Lozman, acting pro se, asked the District Court to dis-
`miss the suit on the ground that the court lacked admi-
`ralty jurisdiction. See 2 Record, Doc. 64. After summary
`judgment proceedings, the court found that the floating
`home was a “vessel” and concluded that admiralty juris-
`diction was consequently proper. Pet. for Cert. 42a. The
`judge then conducted a bench trial on the merits and
`awarded the City $3,039.88 for dockage along with $1 in
`nominal damages for trespass. Id., at 49a.
`
`On appeal the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Riviera Beach
`v. That Certain Unnamed Gray, Two-Story Vessel Approx-
`imately Fifty-Seven Feet in Length, 649 F. 3d 1259 (2011).
`It agreed with the District Court that the home was a
`“vessel.” In its view, the home was “capable” of movement
`over water and the owner’s subjective intent to remain
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`Opinion of the Court
`moored “indefinitely” at a dock could not show the con-
`trary. Id., at 1267–1269.
`
`Lozman sought certiorari. In light of uncertainty among
`the Circuits about application of the term “capable” we
`granted his petition. Compare De La Rosa v. St. Charles
`Gaming Co., 474 F. 3d 185, 187 (CA5 2006) (structure is
`
`not a “vessel” where “physically,” but only “theoretical[ly],”
`“capable of sailing,” and owner intends to moor it indef-
`initely as floating casino), with Board of Comm’rs of Or-
`leans Levee Dist. v. M/V Belle of Orleans, 535 F. 3d 1299,
`1311–1312 (CA11 2008) (structure is a “vessel” where
`capable of moving over water under tow, “albeit to her
`detriment,” despite intent to moor indefinitely). See also
`
`649 F. 3d, at 1267 (rejecting views of Circuits that “‘focus
`on the intent of the shipowner’”).
`II
`
`At the outset we consider one threshold matter. The
`
`District Court ordered the floating home sold to satisfy
`the City’s judgment. The City bought the home at public
`auction and subsequently had it destroyed. And, after the
`parties filed their merits briefs, we ordered further brief-
`ing on the question of mootness in light of the home’s
`destruction. 567 U. S. ___ (2012). The parties now have
`pointed out that, prior to the home’s sale, the District
`
`Court ordered the City to post a $25,000 bond “to secure
`
`Mr. Lozman’s value in the vessel.” 1 Record, Doc. 20, p. 2.
`The bond ensures that Lozman can obtain monetary relief
`if he ultimately prevails. We consequently agree with the
`parties that the case is not moot.
`
`III
`
`A
`
`
`
`We focus primarily upon the statutory phrase “capable
`of being used . . . as a means of transportation on water.”
`1 U. S. C. §3. The Court of Appeals found that the home
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`LOZMAN v. RIVIERA BEACH
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`Opinion of the Court
` was “capable” of transportation because it could float, it
`
`could proceed under tow, and its shore connections (power
`cable, water hose, rope lines) did not “ ‘rende[r]’” it “‘prac-
`tically incapable of transportation or movement.’” 649
`
`F. 3d, at 1266 (quoting Belle of Orleans, supra, at 1312,
`in turn quoting Stewart, 543 U. S., at 494). At least for
`
`
`argument’s sake we agree with the Court of Appeals about
`the last-mentioned point, namely that Lozman’s shore
`connections did not “‘render’” the home “‘practically inca-
`
`pable of transportation.’” But unlike the Eleventh Circuit,
`we do not find these considerations (even when combined
`with the home’s other characteristics) sufficient to show
`that Lozman’s home was a “vessel.”
`
`The Court of Appeals recognized that it had applied
`the term “capable” broadly. 649 F. 3d, at 1266. Indeed,
`it pointed with approval to language in an earlier case,
`Burks v. American River Transp. Co., 679 F. 2d 69 (1982),
`in which the Fifth Circuit said:
`“‘No doubt the three men in a tub would also fit with-
`in our definition, and one probably could make a con-
`vincing case for Jonah inside the whale.’” 649 F. 3d,
`at 1269 (brackets omitted) (quoting Burks, supra, at
`75).
`But the Eleventh Circuit’s interpretation is too broad. Not
`every floating structure is a “vessel.” To state the obvious,
`a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming plat-
`form on pontoons, a large fishing net, a door taken off
`its hinges, or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not
`“vessels,” even if they are “artificial contrivance[s]” capable
`
`of floating, moving under tow, and incidentally carrying
`
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`even a fair-sized item or two when they do so. Rather, the
`statute applies to an “artificial contrivance . . . capable of
`being used . . . as a means of transportation on water.” 1
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`U. S. C. §3 (emphasis added). “[T]ransportation” involves
`the “conveyance (of things or persons) from one place to
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`Opinion of the Court
` another.” 18 Oxford English Dictionary 424 (2d ed. 1989)
`
`
` (OED). Accord, N. Webster, An American Dictionary of
`the English Language 1406 (C. Goodrich & N. Porter
`eds. 1873) (“[t]he act of transporting, carrying, or conveying
`
`from one place to another”). And we must apply this
`
`
`definition in a “practical,” not a “theoretical,” way. Stew-
`art, supra, at 496. Consequently, in our view a structure
`
`does not fall within the scope of this statutory phrase
`unless a reasonable observer, looking to the home’s phys-
`ical characteristics and activities, would consider it de-
`signed to a practical degree for carrying people or things
`
`over water.
`
`B
`Though our criterion is general, the facts of this case
`
`illustrate more specifically what we have in mind. But
`for the fact that it floats, nothing about Lozman’s home
`suggests that it was designed to any practical degree to
`transport persons or things over water. It had no rudder
`or other steering mechanism. 649 F. 3d, at 1269. Its hull
`
`was unraked, ibid., and it had a rectangular bottom 10
`inches below the water. Brief for Petitioner 27; App. 37.
`
`It had no special capacity to generate or store electricity
`but could obtain that utility only through ongoing connec-
`tions with the land. Id., at 40. Its small rooms looked like
`ordinary nonmaritime living quarters. And those inside
`those rooms looked out upon the world, not through water-
`tight portholes, but through French doors or ordinary
`windows. Id., at 44–66.
`
`Although lack of self-propulsion is not dispositive, e.g.,
`The Robert W. Parsons, 191 U. S. 17, 31 (1903), it may be
`a relevant physical characteristic. And Lozman’s home
`differs significantly from an ordinary houseboat in that it
`has no ability to propel itself. Cf. 33 CFR §173.3 (2012)
`
` (“Houseboat means a motorized vessel . . . designed pri-
`marily for multi-purpose accommodation spaces with low
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`LOZMAN v. RIVIERA BEACH
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`Opinion of the Court
`freeboard and little or no foredeck or cockpit” (emphasis
`added)). Lozman’s home was able to travel over water
`only by being towed. Prior to its arrest, that home’s travel
`by tow over water took place on only four occasions over a
`
`period of seven years. Supra, at 2. And when the home
`
`was towed a significant distance in 2006, the towing com-
`pany had a second boat follow behind to prevent the home
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`from swinging dangerously from side to side. App. 104.
`
`The home has no other feature that might suggest a
`design to transport over water anything other than its
`own furnishings and related personal effects. In a word,
`we can find nothing about the home that could lead a
`reasonable observer to consider it designed to a practical
`
`degree for “transportation on water.”
`C
`
`Our view of the statute is consistent with its text, prece-
`dent, and relevant purposes. For one thing, the statute’s
`language, read naturally, lends itself to that interpreta-
`tion. We concede that the statute uses the word “every,”
`referring to “every description of watercraft or other artifi-
`cial contrivance.” 1 U. S. C. §3 (emphasis added). But
`the term “contrivance” refers to “something contrived for,
`or employed in contriving to effect a purpose.” 3 OED 850
`
`
`(def. 7). The term “craft” explains that purpose as “water
`carriage and transport.” Id., at 1104 (def. V(9)(b)) (de-
`fining “craft” as a “vesse[l] . . . for” that purpose). The ad-
`dition of the word “water” to “craft,” yielding the term
`“watercraft,” emphasizes the point. And the next few words,
`“used, or capable of being used, as a means of transporta-
`tion on water,” drive the point home.
`
`For another thing, the bulk of precedent supports our
`conclusion. In Evansville & Bowling Green Packet Co. v.
`Chero Cola Bottling Co., 271 U. S. 19 (1926), the Court
`held that a wharfboat was not a “vessel.” The wharfboat
`
`floated next to a dock; it was used to transfer cargo from
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`Opinion of the Court
`ship to dock and ship to ship; and it was connected to the
`
`dock with cables, utility lines, and a ramp. Id., at 21. At
`the same time, it was capable of being towed. And it
`was towed each winter to a harbor to avoid river ice. Id.,
`at 20–21. The Court reasoned that, despite the annual
`movement under tow, the wharfboat “was not used to
`
`carry freight from one place to another,” nor did it “en-
`counter perils of navigation to which craft used for trans-
`portation are exposed.” Id., at 22. (See Appendix, infra,
`for photograph of a period wharfboat).
`The Court’s reasoning in Stewart also supports our
`
`conclusion. We there considered the application of the
`statutory definition to a dredge. 543 U. S., at 494. The
`dredge was “a massive floating platform” from which a
`suspended clamshell bucket would “remov[e] silt from the
`ocean floor,” depositing it “onto one of two scows” floating
`alongside the dredge. Id., at 484. Like more traditional
`
`“seagoing vessels,” the dredge had, e.g., “a captain and
`crew, navigational lights, ballast tanks, and a crew dining
`area.” Ibid. Unlike more ordinary vessels, it could navi-
`gate only by “manipulating its anchors and cables” or by
`being towed. Ibid. Nonetheless it did move. In fact it
`moved over water “every couple of hours.” Id., at 485.
`
`We held that the dredge was a “vessel.” We wrote that
`§3’s definition “merely codified the meaning that the term
`‘vessel’ had acquired in general maritime law.” Id., at 490.
`We added that the question of the “watercraft’s use ‘as a
`means of transportation on water’ is . . . practical,” and not
`“merely . . . theoretical.” Id., at 496. And we pointed to
`cases holding that dredges ordinarily “served a waterborne
`transportation function,” namely that “in performing their
`work they carried machinery, equipment, and crew over
`
`water.” Id., at 491–492 (citing, e.g., Butler v. Ellis, 45
`
`F. 2d 951, 955 (CA4 1930)).
`
`
` As the Court of Appeals pointed out, in Stewart we also
`
` wrote that §3 “does not require that a watercraft be used
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`LOZMAN v. RIVIERA BEACH
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`Opinion of the Court
` primarily for that [transportation] purpose,” 543 U. S.,
`
`at 495; that a “watercraft need not be in motion to qualify
`as a vessel,” ibid.; and that a structure may qualify as a
`
`
`vessel even if attached—but not “permanently” attached—
`to the land or ocean floor. Id., at 493–494. We did not
`
`take these statements, however, as implying a universal
`set of sufficient conditions for application of the definition.
`Rather, they say, and they mean, that the statutory defi-
`nition may (or may not) apply—not that it automatically
`
`must apply—where a structure has some other primary
`purpose, where it is stationary at relevant times, and
`where it is attached—but not permanently attached—to
`land.
`After all, a washtub is normally not a “vessel” though it
`
`does not have water transportation as its primary pur-
`pose, it may be stationary much of the time, and it might
`be attached—but not permanently attached—to land.
`
`More to the point, water transportation was not the pri-
`mary purpose of either Stewart’s dredge or Evansville’s
`
`
`wharfboat; neither structure was “in motion” at relevant
`times; and both were sometimes attached (though not
`permanently attached) to the ocean bottom or to land.
`
`Nonetheless Stewart’s dredge fell within the statute’s
`
`
`definition while Evansville’s wharfboat did not.
`
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`The basic difference, we believe, is that the dredge was
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`regularly, but not primarily, used (and designed in part to
`be used) to transport workers and equipment over water
`while the wharfboat was not designed (to any practical
`degree) to serve a transportation function and did not do
`so. Compare Cope v. Vallette Dry Dock Co., 119 U. S. 625
`(1887) (floating drydock not a “vessel” because permanently
`
` fixed to wharf), with Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great
`Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U. S. 527, 535 (1995) (barge
`sometimes attached to river bottom to use as a work plat-
`form remains a “vessel” when “at other times it was used
`
`for transportation”). See also ibid. (citing Great Lakes
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`Opinion of the Court
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` Dredge & Dock Co. v. Chicago, 3 F. 3d 225, 229 (CA7 1993)
`(“[A] craft is a ‘vessel’ if its purpose is to some reasonable
`
`degree ‘the transportation of passengers, cargo, or equip-
`ment from place to place across navigable waters’”)); Cope,
`supra, at 630 (describing “hopper-barge,” as potentially
`a “vessel” because it is a “navigable structure[,] used for
`the purpose of transportation”); cf. 1 Benedict on Admiralty
`§164, p. 10–6 (7th rev. ed. 2012) (maritime jurisdiction
`proper if “the craft is a navigable structure intended for
`maritime transportation”).
`
`Lower court cases also tend, on balance, to support our
`conclusion. See, e.g., Bernard v. Binnings Constr. Co., 741
`F. 2d 824, 828, n. 13, 832, n. 25 (CA5 1984) (work punt
`lacking features objectively indicating a transportation
`function not a “vessel,” for “our decisions make clear that
`the mere capacity to float or move across navigable waters
`does not necessarily make a structure a vessel”); Rud-
`diman v. A Scow Platform, 38 F. 158 (SDNY 1889) (scow,
`
`
`though “capable of being towed . . . though not without
`some difficulty, from its clumsy structure” just a floating
`box, not a “vessel,” because “it was not designed or used
`for the purpose of navigation,” not engaged “in the trans-
`portation of persons or cargo,” and had “no motive power,
`no rudder, no sails”). See also 1 T. Schoenbaum, Admi-
`ralty and Maritime Law §3–6, p. 155 (5th ed. 2011) (courts
`have found that “floating dry-dock[s],” “floating platforms,
`barges, or rafts used for construction or repair of piers,
`docks, bridges, pipelines and other” similar facilities are
`not “vessels”); E. Benedict, American Admiralty §215,
`
`p. 116 (3d rev. ed. 1898) (defining “vessel” as a “‘machine
`
`
`adapted to transportation over rivers, seas, and oceans’”).
`
`
`We recognize that some lower court opinions can be read
`as endorsing the “anything that floats” approach. See
`
`
`Miami River Boat Yard, Inc. v. 60’ Houseboat, 390 F. 2d
`
`596, 597 (CA5 1968) (so-called “houseboat” lacking self-
`
`propulsion); Sea Village Marina, LLC v. A 1980 Carlcraft
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`10
`
`
`LOZMAN v. RIVIERA BEACH
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Houseboat, No. 09–3292, 2009 WL 3379923, *5–*6 (D NJ,
`Oct. 19, 2009) (following Miami River Boat Yard); Hudson
`Harbor 79th Street Boat Basin, Inc. v. Sea Casa, 469 F.
`
` Supp. 987, 989 (SDNY 1979) (same). Cf. Holmes v. Atlan-
`tic Sounding Co., 437 F. 3d 441 (CA5 2006) (floating dor-
`mitory); Summerlin v. Massman Constr. Co., 199 F. 2d
`
`715 (CA4 1952) (derrick anchored in the river engaged in
`building a bridge is a vessel). For the reasons we have
`stated, we find such an approach inappropriate and incon-
`sistent with our precedents.
`Further, our examination of the purposes of major fed-
`
`eral maritime statutes reveals little reason to classify
`floating homes as “vessels.” Admiralty law, for example,
`provides special attachment procedures lest a vessel avoid
`liability by sailing away. 46 U. S. C. §§31341–31343 (2006
`ed. and Supp. IV). Liability statutes such as the Jones Act
`recognize that sailors face the special “‘perils of the sea.’”
`Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U. S. 347, 354, 373 (1995)
`(referring to “‘vessel[s] in navigation’”). Certain admiralty
`tort doctrines can encourage shipowners to engage in
`port-related commerce. E.g., 46 U. S. C. §30505; Executive
`
`Jet Aviation, Inc. v. Cleveland, 409 U. S. 249, 269–270
`(1972). And maritime safety statutes subject vessels to U. S.
`Coast Guard inspections. E.g., 46 U. S. C. §3301.
`
`Lozman, however, cannot easily escape liability by
`
`sailing away in his home. He faces no special sea dangers.
`He does not significantly engage in port-related commerce.
`And the Solicitor General tells us that to adopt a version
`
`of the “anything that floats” test would place unneces-
`sary and undesirable inspection burdens upon the Coast
`
`Guard. Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 29,
`n. 11.
`
`Finally, our conclusion is consistent with state laws
`in States where floating home owners have congregated in
`communities. See Brief for Seattle Floating Homes As-
`
`sociation et al. as Amici Curiae 1. A Washington State
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
`
`
` 11
`
`
`
` Cite as: 568 U. S. ____ (2013)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`environmental statute, for example, defines a floating
`home (for regulatory purposes) as “a single-family dwell-
`ing unit constructed on a float, that is moored, anchored,
`or otherwise secured in waters, and is not a vessel, even
`though it may be capable of being towed.” Wash. Rev.
`Code Ann. §90.58.270(5)(b)(ii) (Supp. 2012). A California
`statute defines a floating home (for tax purposes) as “a
`floating structure” that is “designed and built to be used,
`or is modified to be used, as a stationary waterborne resi-
`dential dwelling,” and which (unlike a typical houseboat),
`has no independent power generation, and is dependent
`on shore utilities. Cal. Health & Safety Code Ann.
`§18075.55(d) (West 2006). These States, we are told, treat
`structures that meet their “floating home” definitions like
`ordinary land-based homes rather than like vessels. Brief
`for Seattle Floating Homes Association 2. Consistency of
`interpretation of related state and federal laws is a virtue
`in that it helps to create simplicity making the law easier
`to understand and to follow for lawyers and for nonlaw-
`yers alike. And that consideration here supports our
`conclusion.
`
`
`
`
`
`D
`
`The City and supporting amici make several important
`
`
`arguments that warrant our response. First, they ar-
`gue against use of any purpose-based test lest we intro-
`duce into “vessel” determinations a subjective element—
`namely, the owner’s intent. That element, they say, is
`often “unverifiable” and too easily manipulated. Its intro-
`duction would “foment unpredictability and invite games-
`manship.” Brief for Respondent 33.
`
`We agree with the City about the need to eliminate the
`consideration of evidence of subjective intent. But we
`cannot agree that the need requires abandonment of all
`criteria based on “purpose.” Cf. Stewart, 543 U. S., at 495
`(discussing transportation purpose). Indeed, it is difficult,
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`12
`
`
`LOZMAN v. RIVIERA BEACH
`
`Opinion of the Court
`if not impossible, to determine the use of a human “con-
`
`trivance” without some consideration of human purposes.
`At the same time, we have sought to avoid subjective
`elements, such as owner’s intent, by permitting considera-
`tion only of objective evidence of a waterborne transporta-
`
`
`tion purpose. That is why we have referred to the views of
`a reasonable observer. Supra, at 1. And it is why we have
`looked to the physical attributes and behavior of the struc-
`ture, as objective manifestations of any relevant purpose,
`
`
`and not to the subjective intent of the owner. Supra, at
`5–6. We note that various admiralty treatises refer to
`the use of purpose-based tests without any suggestion that
`administration of those tests has introduced too much
`subjectivity into the vessel-determination process.
`1
`Benedict on Admiralty §164; 1 Admiralty and Maritime
`Law §3–6.
`
`Second, the City, with support of amici, argues against
`the use of criteria that are too abstract, complex, or open-
`
`ended. Brief for Respondent 28–29. A court’s jurisdiction,
`e.g., admiralty jurisdiction, may turn on application of
`the term “vessel.” And jurisdictional tests, often applied
`
`at the outset of a case, should be “as simple as possible.”
`Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op.,
`
`at 1).
`
`
`We agree with the last-mentioned sentiment. And we
`also understand that our approach is neither perfectly pre-
`cise nor always determinative. Satisfaction of a design-
`based or purpose-related criterion, for example, is not
`always sufficient for application of the statutory word
`“vessel.” A craft whose physical characteristics and activi-
`ties objectively evidence a waterborne transportation
`purpose or function may still be rendered a nonvessel by
`later physical alterations. For example, an owner might
`take a structure that is otherwise a vessel (even the Queen
`Mary) and connect it permanently to the land for use, say,
`as a hotel. See Stewart, supra, at 493–494. Further,
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` Cite as: 568 U. S. ____ (2013)
`
`Opinion of the Court
` changes over time may produce a new form, i.e., a newly
`
`designed structure—in which case it may be the new de-
`sign that is relevant. See Kathriner v. Unisea, Inc., 975
`
`F. 2d 657, 660 (CA9 1992) (floating processing plant was
`no longer a vessel where a “large opening [had been] cut
`into her hull”).
`Nor is satisfaction of the criterion always a necessary
`
`condition, see Part IV, infra. It is conceivable that an
`owner might actually use a floating structure not designed
`to any practical degree for transportation as, say, a ferry
`boat, regularly transporting goods and persons over water.
`Nonetheless, we believe the criterion we have used,
`
`taken together with our example of its application here,
`should offer guidance in a significant number of borderline
`cases where “capacity” to transport over water is in doubt.
`
`
`Moreover, borderline cases will always exist; they require
`a method for resolution; we believe the method we have
`used is workable; and, unlike, say, an “anything that
`floats” test, it is consistent with statutory text, purpose,
`and precedent. Nor do we believe that the dissent’s ap-
`proach would prove any more workable. For example,
`the dissent suggests a relevant distinction between an own-
` er’s “clothes and personal effects” and “large appliances
`
`(like an oven or a refrigerator).” Post, at 8 (opinion of
`
`SOTOMAYOR, J.). But a tr

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