Haves v. City of Miami, 93-4762

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Citation52 F.3d 918
Docket NumberNo. 93-4762,93-4762
PartiesStanley HAVES, Marjorie Haves, his wife, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF MIAMI, a municipal corporation organized under the laws of the State of Florida, Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date19 May 1995

Spencer Marc Aronfeld, Coral Gables, FL, for appellants.

Theresa L. Girten, City Attorney's Office, Miami, FL, for appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before COX and BLACK, Circuit Judges, and FAY, Senior Circuit Judge.

BLACK, Circuit Judge:

In this case we must decide whether the district court properly granted summary judgment on Appellants' equal protection challenge to two City of Miami, Florida, ordinances prohibiting some, but not all, houseboats in the City. We affirm.

A. Facts

Appellants Stanley and Marjorie Haves have lived aboard a houseboat 1 in the City of Miami (City or Appellee) since 1970. Their houseboat is moored in the Little River Canal, alongside unimproved property owned by Marjorie Haves. The property is zoned R-1 residential by the City.

The City permitted residential use of houseboats until 1987, 2 when City Ordinance 10246 was adopted. Ordinance 10246 prohibited houseboats in the Little River Canal and in residential sections of the Miami River. City of Miami, Fla., Ordinance 10246 Secs. 15183.1; 2024.1.4 (March 31, 1987). The Ordinance's stated goals were to (1) prevent potential hazards to navigation, (2) eliminate waste water discharge and other pollution, and (3) eliminate visual intrusions in residential neighborhoods. City of Miami Ordinance 10246 Sec. 15181.

In 1990, the City adopted Ordinance 11000 to replace the existing comprehensive zoning ordinance, superseding Ordinance 10246 in the process. Ordinance 11000 adopted a comprehensive ban on the residential occupancy of all vessels, including houseboats, within the City. See City of Miami, Fla., Ordinance 11000 Sec. 400.1 (March 8, 1990). In October 1991, the City adopted Ordinance 10932, which amended Ordinance 11000. Ordinance 10932 modifies the comprehensive houseboat ban by permitting 38 existing houseboats moored in the Miami River to remain despite Ordinance 11000. Ordinance 10932, however, does not grandfather those houseboats moored in the Little River Canal. See City of Miami, Fla., Ordinance 10932 Sec. 940 (October 24, 1991); Attachment A. 3

B. Procedural History

Appellants filed this case in state court to challenge the validity of Ordinances 10932 and 11000. 4 Appellee promptly removed to federal court based on federal subject matter jurisdiction.

Appellants' pro se complaint alleged that the City's adoption of the Ordinances violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution and effected a taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment. It also alleged violations of rights secured by Sections 1 and 12 of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of Florida, and made an inverse condemnation claim under Florida law. The complaint asked for declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief.

Following cross-motions for summary judgment and the presentation of extensive documentary evidence, the magistrate judge recommended granting Appellee's motion for summary judgment. The magistrate found that all of Appellants' claims depended upon the deprivation of a protectable property interest and that the lack of such an interest rendered summary judgment appropriate. The report did not specifically address Appellants' equal protection claim.

The district court adopted the magistrate's report and recommendation and dismissed Appellants' suit. This appeal follows.


Appellants abandoned their substantive due process, Fifth Amendment takings, and Florida inverse condemnation claims at oral argument. Any other state law claims, if not abandoned, are patently frivolous. 5 Therefore, the only issue before us is whether the district court properly dismissed Appellants' claim that Ordinances 10932 and 11000 violate the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

A. Standard of Review

This Court reviews the granting of summary judgment de novo, applying the same legal standards which bound the district court. Parks v. City of Warner Robbins, Ga., 43 F.3d 609, 612-13 (11th Cir.1995). Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence before the court shows "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In making this determination, the court must view all evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing summary judgment. Dibrell Bros. Int'l, S.A. v. Banca Nazionale Del Lavoro, 38 F.3d 1571, 1578 (11th Cir.1994).

The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Spence v. Zimmerman, 873 F.2d 256, 257 (11th Cir.1989). The relevant rules of substantive law dictate the materiality of a disputed fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-49, 106 S.Ct. at 2510; Thornton v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Co., Inc., 22 F.3d 284, 288 (11th Cir.1994). A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-51, 106 S.Ct. at 2511; Thornton, 22 F.3d at 288.

B. The Equal Protection Claim

The Equal Protection Clause proclaims that "No State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, Sec. 1. This rule of equal treatment does not depend on the existence of an underlying property right. Reserve, Ltd. v. Town of Longboat Key, 17 F.3d 1374, 1381 (11th Cir.1994), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 729, 130 L.Ed.2d 633 (1995). Therefore, Appellants' equal protection claim cannot be dismissed for lack of a protectable property interest. Consequently, we must examine whether another basis justifies the district court's granting of summary judgment. See Parks, 43 F.3d at 613.

Appellants do not allege that Ordinances 10932 and 11000 contain "suspect classifications" on the basis of race, alienage, national origin, gender, or illegitimacy, nor do they allege that the Ordinances burden "fundamental rights" such as privacy and travel. See City of Cleburne, Texas v. Cleburne Living Ctr., Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439-42, 105 S.Ct. 3249, 3254-55, 87 L.Ed.2d 313 (1985). Absent such allegations, zoning ordinances should be tested under the "rational-basis" standard. See, e.g., Id. at 439-40, 105 S.Ct. at 3254 (applying rational-basis scrutiny to a zoning ordinance); Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin County, 922 F.2d 1536, 1541 (11th Cir.) (same), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 810, 112 S.Ct. 55, 116 L.Ed.2d 32 (1991); Mackenzie v. City of Rockledge, 920 F.2d 1554, 1559 (11th Cir.1991) (same). The rational-basis standard requires that classifications made by the challenged statutes or ordinances be rationally related to the achievement of some legitimate government purpose. F.C.C. v. Beach Communications, Inc., --- U.S. ----, ----, 113 S.Ct. 2096, 2101, 124 L.Ed.2d 211 (1993); Nordlinger v. Hahn, --- U.S. ----, ---- - ----, 112 S.Ct. 2326, 2331-32, 120 L.Ed.2d 1 (1992).

The first step in determining whether legislation survives rational-basis scrutiny is identifying a legitimate government purpose--a goal--which the enacting government body could have been pursuing. The actual motivations of the enacting governmental body are entirely irrelevant. Beach Communications, --- U.S. at ----, ----, 113 S.Ct. at 2102, 2103; Panama City Medical Diagnostic Ltd. v. Williams, 13 F.3d 1541, 1546 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 93, 130 L.Ed.2d 44 (1994). Moreover, the Equal Protection Clause does not require government decisionmakers to articulate any reason for their actions, Beach Communications, --- U.S. at ----, 113 S.Ct. at 2102; Nordlinger, --- U.S. at ----, 112 S.Ct. at 2334, nor does it require any record evidence of a legitimate purpose. Panama City, 13 F.3d at 1546.

The second step of rational-basis scrutiny asks whether a rational basis exists for the enacting governmental body to believe that the legislation would further the hypothesized purpose. "The proper inquiry is concerned with the existence of a conceivably rational basis, not whether that basis was actually considered by the legislative body." Panama City, 13 F.3d at 1547. As long as reasons for the legislative classification may have been considered to be true, and the relationship between the classification and the goal "is not so attenuated as to render the distinction arbitrary or irrational," the legislation survives rational-basis scrutiny. Nordlinger, --- U.S. at ----, 112 S.Ct. at 2332. As with the legitimate purpose inquiry, courts are not confined to the record when determining whether a rational basis for the classification exists. Beach Communications, --- U.S. at ----, 113 S.Ct. at 2102; Panama City, 13 F.3d at 1545. In sum, "those attacking the rationality of the legislative classification have the burden 'to negative every conceivable basis which might support it.' " Beach Communications, --- U.S. at ----, 113 S.Ct. at 2102 (quoting Lehnhausen v. Lake Shore Auto Parts Co., 410 U.S. 356, 364, 93 S.Ct. 1001, 1006, 35 L.Ed.2d 351 (1973)).

It is clear that the houseboat restrictions in City Ordinance 11000 are constitutional under the principles outlined above. Its predecessor, Ordinance 10246, lists the prevention of (1) navigational hazards, (2) pollution, and (3) visual intrusions as its purposes. City of Miami Ordinance 10246, Sec. 15181. The Court can accept these purposes as applying equally to Ordinance 11000 because nothing required the Miami City...

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