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Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) Suspensions and Revocations (S&R)

Merchant Mariner Credential Suspension & Revocation proceedings, also known as S&R proceedings, occur when the United States Coast Guard initiates an action to either suspend or revoke a mariner’s Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).  The U.S. Coast Guard initiates 400-600 suspension and revocation (S&R) cases each year. 

A Merchant Mariner Credential can be suspended or revoked for various reasons, including:

  • Violating a marine safety regulation;
  • Violating a marine standard of conduct;
  • Misconduct, incompetence or negligence while operating under your MMC;
  • Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol;
  • Violating certain motor vehicle laws;
  • Testing positive for drugs; and/or
  • A criminal conviction.

Suspending or revoking a MMC is a formal, administrative process to which due process protections are afforded.  S&R hearings are similar to civil trial proceedings, with the exception of streamlined discovery rules and the fact that your case will be decided by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), as opposed to a jury.  

The Complaint and Answer

A U.S.C.G. Investigating Officer initiates the S&R procedure by filing a Complaint and serving it on the mariner who is the subject of the Complaint. The Complaint will set forth the statute or regulation claimed to be violated. 

Once a Complaint is filed and docketed, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is assigned to the case. The Coast Guard has ALJs in Baltimore, New York, New Orleans, Galveston, Alameda, and Seattle. The Chief ALJ is located at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC.  

After the Complaint is filed, the mariner must file a written Answer within 20 days of being served. If the mariner fails to file an Answer within 20 days, their license may be revoked or suspended by default and the right to a hearing may be waived. 

The Hearing

Prior to the hearing, the U.S.C.G. representative and the mariner’s representative may settle the case by coming to an agreement.  If the case against the mariner is not settled, however, it will eventually proceed to a full evidentiary hearing.

In anticipation of this hearing, the parties will routinely participate in a pre-hearing telephone conferences with the Administrative Law Judge, who will set forth dates for the exchange of evidence prior to the hearing. 

Hearings usually last one day or less, although some can last for several days. The hearing will proceed much like a trial, with the attorneys giving opening statements at the beginning. The U.S.C.G. representative will then call its witnesses and introduce evidence. After the U.S.C.G. rests its case, the mariner’s attorney will then call witnesses and introduce evidence. The U.S.C.G. will then be given the opportunity to cross-examine the mariner’s witnesses and rebut any new evidence introduced. 

The ALJ’s Decision 

After the hearing, the Coast Guard and mariner will have the opportunity to file closing briefs and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law after review of the transcript of the hearing. If, however, the parties waive their right to submit closing briefs and proposed findings and conclusions, the ALJ may provide an oral decision at the conclusion of the hearing. If briefs and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law are filed with the ALJ, the record will then be considered closed, after which the ALJ will review the evidence and prepare a decision. 

If the ALJ finds that the U.S.C.G. has proved its case, the ALJ will prepare an order imposing the appropriate sanction, such as suspension (with or without probation), revocation, or admonition.  If the ALJ finds that the Coast Guard did not prove its case, the ALJ will dismiss the proceeding.  

Appeals

If the mariner disagrees with the ALJ’s decision, he or she can appeal that determination to the Commandant of the Coast Guard. If the mariner disagrees with the Commandant’s decision, he or she can further appeal the Commandant’s decision to the National Transportation Safety Board. The Board’s decision can be appealed to the appropriate U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately to the Supreme Court of the United States.  

Nationwide Merchant Mariner Credential Lawyers

As can be seen, the S&R process is complex. An experienced Merchant Mariner Credential suspension or revocation lawyer can drastically increase your chances of keeping your MMC. Without a Merchant Mariner Credential, your ability to work is severely impacted as a mariner. The Merchant Mariner Credential suspension and revocation lawyers at National Security Law Firm understand that your MMC is your livelihood and will work hard on your behalf to protect your MMC.

If you are served with a S&R Complaint, you should immediately contact a Merchant Mariner Credential lawyer to aggressively defend your MMC. We represent mariners throughout the S&R process nationwide. 

Our Merchant Mariner Credential lawyers will investigate the charges, gather evidence and prepare a strong case for the S&R hearing and, if necessary, any appeals. Call us today for a free consultation.

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