Located in the Old Town section of Key West, Florida, Horan, Wallace & Higgins, LLP is one of the oldest and most respected law firms in Monroe County. Truly a full-service legal practice, the firm has earned a reputation for developing informed, perceptive, and successful legal strategies in a broad range of matters.
Experienced Litigation Attorneys
Our attorneys bring nearly a century of combined experience to every legal matter they handle. Our attorneys are accomplished litigators, with the experience to handle complex criminal, real estate, personal injury and civil litigation cases. Our lawyers regularly provide legal advice and representation in diverse areas, ranging from maritime claims and environmental actions to civil rights and commercial contracts. We also handle appeals of cases through our appellate law practice.
Our attorneys represent local, national, and international corporations in business matters, construction disputes, and product liability cases. Some of our highest profile cases involve disputes between our clients and state and federal government agencies. These cases often concern private property rights, business and construction litigation, and commercial fishing.
In addition, our lawyers have a special interest in admiralty and maritime litigation involving salvage actions. David Paul Horan, our senior and managing partner, is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leaders in the field of maritime salvage. He also successfully defended Mel Fisher against federal and state claims that firmly established rights to salvage. He has litigated salvage cases involving RMS Titanic, SS Central America, the Spanish Treasure Fleets, and many other historic vessels and aircraft.
Featured In The News
(CBS News) Be careful what you wish for. The old saying is a fitting one for the predicament Jay Miscovich finds himself in. The amateur diver and treasure hunter says he came upon what everyone dreams of: a sunken treasure potentially worth millions of dollars. But ever since he says he found one of the largest caches of raw emeralds ever discovered, the debt he has incurred to salvage them has risen, along with questions about how the gems got there and whether, if ever, he will get to profit from his find. Armen Keteyian reports this maritime mystery from Key West, Fla., for 60 Minutes Sunday, April 22 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Miscovich says he found the gems by buying a map from a diver he knew. It led him to a site in the Gulf of Mexico where the diver said he found ancient pottery, a sign of a possible wreck. Miscovich says he found the emeralds nearby, and then talked investors into giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars to salvage the gems. But he’s had to spend millions of dollars more to try to get ownership of his find: more than 80 lbs. of raw emeralds of all shapes, sizes and quality. Today, there remain some key questions about the discovery.
How did the gems get there? Why do some of them contain a polishing substance in use for just the past 50 years or so? Why won’t Miscovich reveal the name of the person who gave him the map? On top of that, it could take years before a court decides to give him title to the loot and he can’t legally sell it until he gets it. With the worth of such gems tied to their provenance, never finding out if they came from a famous wreck or belonged to an historical person could diminish their worth. Should he get title eventually, will they be worth more than the nearly $10 million he owes investors and lawyers?
“It’s the trouble with treasure,” says Key West attorney David Horan, who had to dive down himself to see the ocean bottom site glistening with green gems before he agreed to represent Miscovich in a title claim. “He didn’t understand the implications as to title,” says Horan. “Possession was, in his mind, 99.9 percent of the law.”
Horan discusses another question in this mystery: why didn’t Miscovich just sell the gems on the black market? Horan says, “He had that option and he didn’t do it…there’s a lot of trouble that comes with finding treasure.””
For ten years, Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote at his Key West home, in the company of his exotic six-toed cats. After he died in 1961, the cats stayed on and the privately-owned house opened for tours, part of the coveted Key West experience.
And that’s pretty much the way it was for about 40 years – until a complaint from a disgruntled volunteer brought in the federal government, and investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who insisted they have jurisdiction over the cats, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.
The complaint was about some of the cats, now numbering nearly four dozen, roaming off the property, which it turns out they were entitled to do since Key West has no leash law.
But once USDA got involved, it argued Hemingway cats were “exhibits” and needed the special protection of the same federal laws governing a zoo or circus.
Cara Higgins is an attorney for the Hemingway House and its feline population.
“They’re not transferred, they’re not moved, they’re not disrupted, they’re not eaten,” Higgins said. “I can’t imagine why the USDA, why the federal government, would have an interest in a handful of local cats.”
First, USDA wanted the cats rounded up nightly and caged, according to the Hemingway House’s Mike Morawski.
“Our vet who comes on the property weekly thought that was extremely traumatic for any of our cats, much less the cats that have lived on this property the last 10 to 15 years of their life,” Morawski said.
Next, he says the USDA recommended an electric fence.
“We had one change after another, but the USDA demands kept coming,” he said. “We had one cat that we did that experiment with and she ended up with two burn holes in her neck.”
CBS News tried to scratch out exactly how many of your tax dollars are being spent on the whole cat fight, but USDA wouldn’t provide the documentation or agree to an interview.
So we sifted through the litter and came up with this:
- More than 270 government man hours spent on the case so far.
- The cases involve at least three government lawyers …
- Four inspectors …
- Six veterinarians …
- And at least 14 USDA field trips to sunny Key West.