Riviera Beach man takes First Amendment case to US Supreme Court -- again

Fane Lozman alleges arrest at city meeting was assault on First Amendment


MIAMI – Fane Lozman already made it to the U.S. Supreme Court once in his fight with City Hall and won. 

Now he's going back. 

Lozman's first claim to fame was spearheading a fight against handing a private developer the public marina in Riviera Beach, as well as 2,200 homes via eminent domain for a billion-dollar project. He won, and that's when city officials were on record as saying he needed to be "intimidated" to stop his continuing efforts. 

Intimidate the city did, seizing his floating home and ultimately destroying it in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 and in which the Supreme Court found in favor of Lozman. 

In 2006, the city also had Lozman arrested during public comments at a commission meeting when he simply mentioned the topic of public corruption in Palm Beach County -- and that is leading Lozman back to the highest court in the land. 

The commission ordered a police officer to arrest Lozman -- even though he'd violated no rules -- and he was hauled to a holding cell at the police department on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. 

Those charges were dropped, and Lozman filed a federal lawsuit against the city alleging his First Amendment rights had been violated. He lost at trial and on appeal, even though there was substantial evidence the arrest was made in retaliation against Lozman for fighting City Hall.

The reason for the loss: the court ruled there was probable cause for the arrest and, under federal law, that protected the government from liability. 

"The federal courts allow police, allow elected officials, to charge you with some trivial offense just to shut you up, and that's not what the First Amendment is all about," Lozman said.

Lozman appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court and last week learned the highest court in the land is taking the case.  

"I was happy," Lozman said. "I've been fighting this for nine-and-a-half years. ... Elected officials, you know, they raised their right hand and swore to uphold the Constitution. Because they don't like to be criticized, because they don’t like their little projects to be challenged, does not give them the right to use police force to try to chill free speech."

The case is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court justices in February.