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Florida First Amendment Case Could Be A Game-Changer

Jul 5, 2018

Floridian Fane Lozman has a rare track record at the U.S. Supreme Court. He's 2-0. 

Lozman recently won a First Amendment case that he carried all the way to the nation's highest court. 

It happened after the Riviera Beach City Council tried to silence him during his turn at a public comment period, about 15 seconds into his talk.

Barbara Petersen of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation said her group filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. She said Chief Justice John Roberts watched the YouTube video of Lozman's arrest at the city council meeting and called it "chilling." 

Petersen said while "the opinion was complicated, but it’s a critically important case for citizen activists."

In her words, "the big issue is now the government has to think twice now before they arrest you for peaceably exercising your First Amendment right."

Petersen said it's important to note that Lozman was not violent or threatening when the city council had him taken out in handcuffs.

Lozman's other case before the high court was also against the Riviera Beach City Council. It came about because the council was wanted to redevelop the marina.

But that was a violation of a new state law--because they wanted to use eminent domain to get the property and then hand it over to a private developer. After the city council called a meeting the day before the law took effect, Lozman sued saying there was not enough public notice given.

The city ultimately gave up on the redevelopment plan.

At that time in 2006, he lived on a floating house he'd built in the Riviera Beach marina, but it was not a houseboat.

The city council ended up taking Lozman's floating house and they had it destroyed, along with everything inside. 

U.S. Supreme Court Justices determined because that house was not a boat, the city couldn't seize it. And Lozman won that case.