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SCHNEIDER v. ROLAND

January 23, 1967

Herbert SCHNEIDER, Plaintiff,
v.
E. J. ROLAND, Commandant, United States Coast Guard, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BEEKS

This case presents once more the perennial but difficult problem of striking a balance between the protection of individual liberties and the security of the United States.

 Plaintiff, who holds a valid license to serve as a second assistant engineer on steam vessels, applied to the Coast Guard in Seattle in October of 1964 for the validation of his mariner's certificate. This validation by law is a prerequisite to his employment aboard a ship of more than 100 gross tons in the U.S. Merchant Marine. As part of that application, he completed a questionnaire relating to his loyalty to the government of the United States. *fn1" In March of 1965, the Coast Guard informed plaintiff that his questionnaire "does not contain, in the judgment of the Commandant, sufficient information for a determination with respect to your eligibility," and sent him a set of interrogatories to answer in writing and under oath. *fn2" Plaintiff was informed that, "No further action will be taken on your application until your reply is received at this Headquarters."

 Plaintiff, through his counsel, replied that requiring him to answer the interrogatories violated his constitutional rights, inasmuch as, "it can be none of the government's business what he reads or what he thinks." He refused to answer the interrogatories, and demanded that his certification be granted. *fn3" The Coast Guard, pursuant to its regulations, has held plaintiff's application in abeyance ever since, refusing either to deny it or to grant it until such time as plaintiff answers the interrogatories. Plaintiff filed this action requesting a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the legislation, executive orders, and regulations governing the Coast Guard's procedures in this case; a mandatory injunction requiring defendant to approve his application and to refrain from interfering with his employment aboard United States flag vessels; and damages in excess of $10,000. *fn4" Jurisdiction is vested in this court by virtue of the challenge to Congressional legislation and the request for an injunction against its enforcement.

 The Magnuson Act, 40 Stat. 220 (1917), as amended by 64 Stat. 427 (1950), 50 U.S.C. § 191 (1952), provides in relevant part:

 
"Whenever the President finds that the security of the United States is endangered by reason of actual or threatened war, or invasion, or insurrection, or subversive activity, or of disturbances or threatened disturbances of the international relations of the United States, the President is authorized to institute such measures and issue such rules and regulations -
 
* * *
 
"(b) to safeguard against destruction, loss, or injury from sabotage or other subversive acts, accidents, or other causes of similar nature, vessels, harbors, ports, and waterfront facilities in the United States, the Canal Zone, and all territory and water, continental or insular, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."

 On October 18, 1950, pursuant to the authority granted him by the Magnuson Act, the President issued Executive Order No. 10173. As amended by Executive Orders No. 10277 and 10352, subpart 6.10-1 of that order provides:

 
§ 6.10-1. Issuance of documents and employment of persons aboard vessels. No person shall be issued a document required for employment on a merchant vessel of the United States nor shall any person be employed on a merchant vessel of the United States unless the Commandant is satisfied that the character and habits of life of such person are such as to authorize the belief that the presence of the individual on board would not be inimical to the security of the United States: Provided, that the Commandant may designate categories of merchant vessels to which the foregoing shall not apply. (Exec. Order No. 10352, 17 Fed.Reg. 4607 (1952), U.S. Code Cong. & Admin.News 1952, p. 1056).

 Regulations promulgated by the Coast Guard pursuant to this Executive Order and published in 33 C.F.R. § 121 establish the machinery of the screening program. Included among those regulations are the following:

 
§ 121.03 Standards.
 
Information concerning an applicant for special validation endorsement for emergency service, or a holder of such endorsement, which may preclude a determination that his character and habits of life are such as to warrant the belief that his presence on board vessels of the United States would not be inimical to the security of the United States, shall relate to the following: * * *
 
(e) Membership in, or affiliation or sympathetic association with, any foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group, or combination of persons designated by the Attorney ...

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