Schneider v. Smith,
390 U.S. 17 (1968)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Schneider v. Smith, 390 U.S. 17 (1967)

Schneider v. Smith

No. 196

Argued December 12-13, 1967

Decided January 16, 1968

390 U.S. 17


Appellant applied to the Commandant of the Coast Guard for validation of his merchant mariner's document evidencing his ability to act as a second assistant engineer. Such validation is required by regulations promulgated pursuant to the Magnuson Act, which authorizes the President, if he finds that "the security of the United States is endangered by . . . subversive activity," to issue regulations "to safeguard . . . from sabotage or other subversive acts" all "vessels" in the territories or waters under United States jurisdiction. In response to a questionnaire, appellant stated that he had been a member of some organizations on the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations, but he refused to answer certain questions on a supplemental form relating generally to the nature and extent of his membership in any of the groups and to his political philosophy. When the Commandant refused to process the application further, appellant brought this action seeking a declaration that the Act and the Commandant's actions thereunder were unconstitutional and praying that the Commandant be directed to approve the application. A three-judge court dismissed the complaint.


1. Since appellant challenged the Act's constitutionality on grounds of vagueness and abridgment of First Amendment rights and also questioned whether the power to install a screening program was properly delegated, the case was one to be heard by a three-judge court and this Court has jurisdiction of the appeal. P. 390 U. S. 22.

2. The Act gives the President no express authority to set up a screening program for personnel on American merchant vessels. P. 390 U. S. 22.

3. The procedure involved here, which is not concerned with appellant's conduct, but which arguably does impinge on his First Amendment freedoms, cannot be justified by the language of the Act, as the Act is to be read narrowly to avoid questions

Page 390 U. S. 18

concerning "associational freedom" and other rights within the protection of the First Amendment. Pp. 390 U. S. 22-27.

263 F.Supp. 496, reversed.

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