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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Questions Regarding Suspension and Revocation Proceedings

NOTE: This document is an effort to answer frequently asked questions regarding suspension and revocations proceedings. This information is intended solely for general purposes and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of an attorney.

What is a Suspension and Revocation (S&R) Proceeding?
A Suspension and Revocation – or S&R – proceeding is an administrative proceeding before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) concerning a Merchant mariner's Coast Guard issued Credential, License(s) or Document(s) and the right to hold those documents and serve under them.
What is a Complaint and what do I do if I receive one?
A Complaint is a document issued by a Coast Guard representative alleging a violation for which a merchant mariner’s credential, license(s), certificate(s) of registry, or document(s) may be suspended or revoked.
What is an Answer to a Complaint, and how and where do I submit one? 
An answer is a document that allows the mariner to specifically deny or admit to each jurisdictional and/or factual element. An answer also allows the mariner to agree or disagree with the Coast Guard’s proposed sanction and/or request settlement agreement discussions. Regulations for Answers are stated in 33 CFR 20.308.
How much time do I have to submit an Answer to a Complaint?
The mariner and/or his attorney representative have twenty (20) days to respond to a Complaint.
How and where do I submit an Answer to a Complaint?
Answers may be mailed to the ALJ Docketing Center at:
ALJ Docketing Center
U.S. Customs House
40 S. Gay Street, Room 412
Baltimore, MD 21202-4022
Answers may be faxed to (410) 962-1742 or (410) 962-1746

Answers may be e-mailed directly to
What if I need more time to submit an Answer?
If you need more time to submit an Answer, you may request an Extension. Where and from whom you file a request for an Extension of time depends on the status of your case. The following tables are provided for guidance. 

If the response period:
You may request an Extension of Time by:
Has not yet Expired
Telephone, letter or motion.
Has Expired
Only by Motion describing why you were unable to timely file the Answer.


Then file your request with the:
An ALJ has not been assigned
Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
U.S. Customs House
40 S. Gay Street, Room 412
Baltimore, MD 21202-4022
FAX: (410) 962-1742 or (410) 962-1746
An ALJ has been assigned
The ALJ. 

What are Jurisdictional Allegations?
Jurisdictional allegations demonstrate that the Coast Guard has authority to take action against a mariner. Specifically, the Coast Guard may allege that an individual held a Coast Guard merchant mariner Credential when an incident occurred. Some allegations may indicate that the mariner was acting under the authority of his or her merchant mariner credential.
What are Factual Allegations? 
Factual allegations assert facts that the Coast Guard may bears the burden to prove in order for a charged violation to be found proven.
What is a Proposed Sanction/Order?
After providing jurisdictional and factual allegations in a complaint, the Coast Guard also proposes an authorized sanction permitted by regulations with respect to the charged violations. 
What if I disagree with the Jurisdictional Allegations on a Complaint?
You may indicate that you deny those allegations you consider incorrect on the Answer document.
What if I disagree with the Factual Allegations on a Complaint?
You may indicate that you deny those allegations you consider incorrect on the Answer document.
What if I disagree with the Proposed Sanction on a Complaint?
You may indicate that you disagree with the proposed sanction on the Answer document, as well as request an opportunity to be heard at a hearing before an ALJ.
Who can I call if I have a question about answering a Complaint or any other filing?
The ALJ Docketing Center may provide limited nationwide toll-free assistance to mariners or their representatives involved in a Coast Guard S&R proceeding. The toll-free number is (866) 612-7524. If the ALJ Docketing Center is unable to provide the help necessary, someone will refer the inquiring person to the appropriate contact to the extent possible.
What happens if I don’t submit and Answer to a Complaint?
If you do not submit any response, you may be found in default. If you are found to be in default, the facts alleged in the Complaint are deemed admitted. If the Complaint is sufficient, then the ALJ may issue an order finding the charged violation(s) proved and an appropriate sanction for the charged violation(s).
Where do I submit or file my responses, requests, notices, copies of exhibits, or motions?
The following table should be helpful in knowing where to file what.

If you are filing a(n):
Then send it to:
Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
U.S. Customs House
40 S. Gay Street, Room 412
Baltimore, MD 21202-4022
FAX: (410) 962-1742 or (410) 962-1746
Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
The Investigating Officer/Coast Guard Representative
You will find the mailing address on the Complaint
The ALJ (if one has been assigned).
You will find the mailing address on the Notice of Assignment
Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
The Investigating Officer/Coast Guard Representative
You will find the mailing address on the Complaint
The ALJ (if one has been assigned).
You will find the mailing address on the Notice of Assignment
Copy of an Exhibit
Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
The Investigating Officer/Coast Guard Representative
You will find the mailing address on the Complaint
The ALJ (if one has been assigned).
You will find the mailing address on the Notice of Assignment
Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
The Investigating Officer/Coast Guard Representative
You will find the mailing address on the Complaint
The ALJ (if one has been assigned).
You will find the mailing address on the Notice of Assignment

What is a Certificate of Service? 
A certificate of service shows how (personal, certified/return receipt, fax, email) and when a legal document was served or given to the ALJ or a party to the proceedings.  A sample of a Certificate of Service can be found on our webpage. 
What is a Notice of Defect?
If the Hearing Docket Clerk determines that a filed document or other material does not comply with the rules regarding submission, then the Clerk will advise you of the deficiency. You will be given the opportunity to correct the defect in your filing. NOTE: If the defect is a failure to properly serve copies on other parties, any required response period begins once the copy is properly served. 
What happens after I submit an Answer?
What happens after an Answer is submitted depends on what the Mariner indicated in his or her answer. The following table provides the most common scenarios. For more specific information regarding your particular case, please call the ALJ Docketing Center. 

If a Mariner:
Admits all Jurisdictional Elements, Factual Elements, and the Proposed Sanction,
The case will be assigned to an ALJ as an Admissions case. The ALJ will review the legalities of the Charges and Proposed Sanction, and issue an Appropriate Order.
Denies any part of the Jurisdictional Elements or Factual Elements, or disagrees with the Proposed Sanction
The case will be assigned to an ALJ as a contested case. The ALJ will review the filings and likely contact both of the parties to arrange for a telephonic prehearing conference.
Requests settlement discussions
Even if you contest the charges, you can still request settlement discussions.   Settlement discussions are conducted between the investigating officer and the respondent. The ALJ does not participate in the settlement discussions, but is required to approve any agreed upon final settlement.

Can I have a jury trial?
No. A jury trial is not authorized in administrative proceedings. You will, however, have the opportunity to have your case heard and decided by an ALJ.
What are ALJs, and how are they appointed?
The position of Administrative Law Judge – or ALJ – was created by the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946, Public Law 79-404. This Act insures fairness and due process in adjudication proceedings by providing parties whose affairs are controlled or regulated by agencies of the Federal Government an opportunity for a formal hearing before an impartial hearing officer.

ALJs are appointed through a merit selection system administered by the United States Office of Personnel Management. An ALJ’s interpretational powers and decisional independence is statutorily protected from undue agency influence, such as the Coast Guard, and they are not subject to agency efficiency ratings, promotions, or demotions. They may, however, be disciplined before the Merit Systems Protection Board, but only after good cause is shown. 

For further information, visit the OPM website at
Who will be the ALJ in my case?
If you choose to have a hearing, your case will be heard by an ALJ. Currently, ALJ’s are employed by the U.S. Coast Guard and are assigned to cases by the Hearing Docket Clerk based on proximity and case load.
How do I know when an ALJ has been assigned?
You will receive a Notice of Assignment from the ALJ Docketing Center via the United States Postal service unless you indicate that you prefer to be served via email. 
How can I find out what the Coast Guard will use against me?
Unless an ALJ orders otherwise, once a case is docketed, each person who intends to present evidence or witnesses at a hearing shall provide the ALJ and opposing party a Notice of Expected Exhibits and Witnesses.  
What is a Notice of Expected Exhibits and Witnesses?
This Notice provides:
  1. The name of each expert or other witness a party intends to call at a hearing.
  2. A brief narrative summary of the expected testimony.
  3. A copy of each document a party intends to introduce into evidence or use in the presentation of its case.
Do I need an attorney at a Hearing?
No. A mariner may appear without counsel, with an attorney, or with an authorized non-attorney representative. If you choose to have someone appear for you, a Notice of Appearance must be submitted to:

Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
U.S. Customs House
40 S. Gay Street, Room 412
Baltimore, MD 21202-4022

The Notice of Appearance must include:
Case Name
Docket Number
Respondent (or Mariner’s) Name, Address, Telephone Number, and E-Mail (if electronic service is desired)
Representative’s Name, Address and Telephone Number, and E-Mail (if electronic service is desired)
Additionally, an attorney “shall be a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of a State, the District of Columbia, or any territory or commonwealth of the United States.” 33 CFR 20.301

Any non-attorney representative “shall file a statement setting forth the basis of his or her authority to [act as a non-attorney representative].” See 33 CFR 20.301. This statement may be included in the Notice of Appearance.
Will an attorney be provided for me if I cannot afford one?
No. Under Coast Guard regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act, there is no obligation to find or provide you with counsel. You may, however, be able to recover attorney fees after a successful defense through an Equal Access to Justice Claim if it is later found that the government was not “substantially justified” in bringing the action. See 5 U.S.C. 504 (a) and 49 CFR Part 6 for more information.
Please visit our Free Legal Representation webpage for more information concerning no cost legal Assistance.
How can I find an attorney who understands this kind of proceeding?
Neither the Coast Guard nor the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge endorse any particular organization, attorney, or law firm. There are, however, a number of options to find representation. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funds locally based legal aid services to persons in financial need and maintains a list of contacts on its Website,

If a mariner is not eligible for legal assistance through the LSC, he or she may be able to obtain an attorney referral from the Lawyer Referral Directory.  This directory can be found at
Will the charges in an S&R proceeding count as a criminal conviction?
No. An S&R proceeding is not a criminal action; therefore, no jail sentences or criminal fees are imposed upon Mariners subject to these proceedings. These proceedings, however, do not bar criminal proceedings brought by other government enforcement divisions.
The ALJ assigned to your case schedules all conferences and hearings.
Where will my hearing be held? 
A hearing location is selected by the ALJ assigned to a case, with due regard for the convenience of the parties, their representatives, and their witnesses.   
How long do hearings last?
Hearings can last anywhere from several hours to several days. A typical hearing, however, generally lasts 1-2 days.
What happens at a formal hearing before an ALJ?
In a formal hearing, all parties are given the opportunity to present oral and documentary evidence, submit evidence in rebuttal, conduct cross examinations, and make arguments. For more General S&R hearing information, go to General S&R Information for Mariners.  
Do I need to bring anything to a hearing?
You should bring your original U.S. issued merchant mariner credential, license(s), and document(s). You will also want to bring all materials, such as regulations or notes that will be helpful to help in trying your case. It is recommended that you bring three (3) copies of any exhibits you intend to introduce into evidence.   
How do I request an alternate date or location for my hearing if I can’t attend on the date scheduled or the location causes financial hardship?
If you are unable to attend the hearing on the date scheduled, you may request, in writing, that the hearing be continued. You may submit your request via e-mail to If you don’t have access to the e-mail, you may submit your request to:
Hearing Docket Clerk
ALJ Docketing Center
U.S. Customs House
40 S. Gay Street, Room 412
Baltimore, MD 21202-4022
Your request should state the reason an alternate date or location is needed, as well as inform the ALJ of any other date you are unavailable. The ALJ, however, retains full discretion to continue a hearing or not.
What happens if I don’t attend a scheduled hearing?
In most cases, the Coast Guard representatives will present a motion for default to the ALJ. Unless you can demonstrate good cause for failing to attend, a default judgment will be entered against you.
What is a subpoena? How do I get one?
A subpoena is a written, formal order that has authority to compel testimony by a witness or production of evidence under a penalty for failure. Any party may request the ALJ issue a subpoena for the attendance of a person or the giving of testimony or other relevant evidence during discovery or at a hearing. 

All requests for a subpoena must be submitted to the Assigned ALJ in writing and contain a brief statement of the relevance and scope of the testimony or evidence sought. 
Do I have to pay fees for witnesses that I subpoena? 
Yes, witnesses are entitled to the same fees and mileage as are paid witnesses in the courts of the United States. The party at whose instance the witness is subpoenaed or appears shall pay the fees. 
Who bears the burden of proof in An S&R hearing?
The Coast Guard bears the burden of proof in these proceedings. This burden means that the Coast Guard must establish that the allegations brought against the respondent were more likely than not to have occurred. 
Where can I find the regulations and laws that will apply to my case?
The Complaint should list the regulations applicable to your case and what regulations you are alleged to have violated. You can obtain copies of these regulations at many libraries, or you can access these regulations online.   A good website that allows free access to the code of federal regulations is
Where can I find copies of administrative decisions and orders that have been issued in other cases?
ALJ decisions for Coast Guard S&Rs proceedings can be found on our website. A link to Commandant Decisions on Appeal and Commandant Review Decisions can also be found on our website. Commandant decisions are also searchable on fee-based Westlaw and Lexis legal research databases.
What are the rules governing contact with the ALJ without the other party present (also known as ex parte communication)?
Both parties should avoid contacting the ALJ or his staff on any matter related to the merits of the current case without the other party present. This means that no phone calls regarding the case should be made to the ALJ’s office unless the other party is on the line. Additionally, any documents filed or e-mailed to the ALJ or his staff should also be copied to the other parties. 
How long do I have to wait for the ALJ to make a decision in my case?
The time it takes an ALJ to arrive on a decision depends on many factors; such as, the type of case, the complexity of the case, whether there was an in-person hearing, and granted continuances, to name a few. Regardless of the factors involved in a specific case, all ALJs are committed handling each case in an expeditious manner.
How do I know if my filings have reached their intended recipients?
If you are concerned that your filing did not reach the intended recipient, you may confirm receipt by contacting the ALJ Docketing Center at (866) 612-7524 or by calling the assigned ALJ’s office, the number of which will be provided to you on the Notification of Assignment document.
How do I file a complaint against an ALJ?
Any motion for disqualification of an ALJ should be filed, at least initially, with the presiding ALJ.  See 33 CFR 20.204. 

Any person alleging that an ALJ has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judges, or that the ALJ cannot discharge all the duties of the office because of physical or mental disability, may file a written complaint with the Chief Administrative Law Judge at the following address:
Commandant (CG-00J)
2100 Second Street SW Stop 7000
Washington, DC. 20593-7000
How can I obtain a transcript of the hearing?
Current policy is that one copy of the transcript will be provided free of charge to the Respondent or Respondent’s representative. Typically, transcripts take 1-2 weeks to be prepared. If after two weeks you or your representative has not received a copy of the transcript, notify the ALJ’s office.
What can I do if I disagree with the ALJ’s decision?
Any party may appeal an ALJ’s decision. Any decision by an ALJ will include specific information of your appeal rights as stated in 33 CFR 20.1001. You have 30 days from the date of the decision to file a notice of appeal. 
Can I continue to use my credential, license, or document while an appeal is pending?
The decision and order will state the sanction imposed, if any, and if it takes effect immediately. If your merchant mariner credential, license(s), or document(s) are revoked or suspended outright effective immediately, you may not continue to use them.   If, however, a Mariner has appealed a decision revoking or outright suspending his or her credential, license(s), or document(s), that Mariner may submit a written request for a temporary license to either the ALJ assigned to the case or to any Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection in keeping with 46 CFR 5.707.


Last Modified 1/14/2015