Secretary of Labor Raymond J. Donovan has defined the so-called "Blitz amendment" so narrowly that the congressional measure would not bar its target, Communist Workers Party member Dorothy Blitz, from qualifying for a federally financed job-training program, a Justice Department lawyer declared at a court hearing yesterday.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. W.C. (Dan) Daniel (R-Va.), was described during congressional debate last December as a way of barring Blitz from rejoining a brick masonry training program in Martinsville conducted under provisions of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).
The measure, attached to a stopgap federal appropriations bill that was renewed until Sept. 30 by Congress on Wednesday, would prohibit CETA participation by anyone who has publicly advocated the overthrow of the government within five years.
Following enactment of the measure, Blitz was rejected for enrollment by the Virginia Employment Commission.
At hearing yesterday before U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker in a suit filed in Blitz' behalf by two civil liberties groups, Justice Department attorney Richard Willard said Donovan--without public announcement--had construed the legislation narrowly, in keeping with a U.S. Supreme Court decision designed to protect the rights of free speech.
Any advocacy of governmental overthrow short of what would result in "imminent lawless conduct" would not, under the Donovan definition, bar Blitz from enrolling in the CETA program, Willard contended. He said Blitz should return to Virginia and apply again.
Willard and Mark Lynch, of the American Civil Liberties Union, which along with the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee is supporting Blitz, agreed in their court arguments that Blitz is not advocating an immediate revolution.
Blitz "doesn't think it is the right time now" although a revolution may ultimately come, Lynch said.
Lynch urged Judge Parker to declare the congressional amendment invalid as a violation of the First Amendment. He also contended that the legislation could be considered an unconstitutional bill of attainder, a law designed especially to punish someone for a past action.
Lynch scoffed at Donovan's interpretation of the legislation, saying it was "contrary to Congress' clear intention" to use it as a weapon against Blitz.
There was no testimony at yesterday's hearing. Blitz, who has filed as a candidate for the nonpartisan Martinsville City Council, sat between her attorneys as the case was argued.
Judge Parker at one point asked government lawyer Willard rhetorically whether Donovan's interpretation of the legislation wasn't "an ad hoc solution to a problem" posed by the lawsuit. The judge took the case under advisement.