423 U.S. 362 (1976), 74-942, Rizzo v. Goode

Docket Nº:No. 74-942
Citation:423 U.S. 362, 96 S.Ct. 598, 46 L.Ed.2d 561
Party Name:Rizzo v. Goode
Case Date:January 21, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court

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423 U.S. 362 (1976)

96 S.Ct. 598, 46 L.Ed.2d 561




No. 74-942

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 21, 1976

Argued November 11, 1975




Two suits, permitted to proceed as class actions, were brought in District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by respondents, individuals and organizations, against petitioners, the Mayor of Philadelphia, the Police Commissioner, and others, alleging a pervasive pattern of illegal and unconstitutional police mistreatment of minority citizens in particular, and Philadelphia residents in general. The petitioners were charged with misconduct ranging from express authorization or encouragement of the mistreatment to failure to act in such a way as to avoid recurrence. The principal antagonists involved in one case were two police officers, not named as parties, who were found to have violated complainants' constitutional rights in three of eight incidents as to which the District Court made detailed factual findings and as to which a five-day suspension had resulted in one incident and no disciplinary action in another. In the other case, in only two of 28 incidents did the District Court conclude that the police conduct amounted to a deprivation of a federally secured right; it found no police misconduct in four incidents; in another, departmental policy was subsequently changed; and, though the court made no comment on the degree of misconduct occurring in the remainder, there were arguably 16 police violations of citizens' constitutional rights in the year involved. The District Court found, inter alia, that the evidence did not establish the existence of any policy on the part of petitioners to violate the constitutional rights of respondent classes, but found evidence of departmental discouragement of complaints and a tendency to minimize the consequences of police misconduct. The court found that only a small percentage of policemen commit violations of the rights of Philadelphia residents generally, but that such violations could not be dismissed as rare or isolated. Petitioners were directed to draft for the court's approval "a comprehensive program for dealing adequately with civilian complaints" to be formulated in accordance with the court's "guidelines" containing detailed suggestions for

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revising the police manuals and procedural rules for dealing with citizens and for changing procedures for handling complaints. On petitioners' appeal the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. The requisite Art. III case or controversy between the individually named respondents and petitioners was lacking, since those respondents' claim to "real and immediate" injury rests not upon what the named petitioners might do to them in the future, but upon what one of a small, unnamed minority of policemen might do to them, and thus those respondents lacked the requisite personal stake in the outcome, i.e., the order overhauling police disciplinary procedures. Cf. O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488. Pp. 371-373.

2. The judgment of the District Court constitutes an unwarranted federal judicial intrusion into the discretionary authority of petitioners to perform their official functions as prescribed by state and local law, and, by validating the type of litigation and granting the type of relief involved here, the lower courts have exceeded their authority under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pp. 373-381.

(a) The District Court's theory of liability under § 1983 was erroneous, being based on a showing of an "unacceptably high" number of incidents of constitutional dimension when, in fact, there were only 20 in a city of three million inhabitants with 7,500 policemen, and on the untenable conclusion that, even without a showing of direct responsibility for the actions of a small percentage of the police force, petitioners' failure to act in the face of a statistical pattern was just as enjoinable under § 1983 as was the active conduct enjoined in Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496, and Allee v. Medrano, 416 U.S. 802. Pp. 373-376.

(b) Nor can the remedy granted here be upheld on the basis that such equitable relief was sanctioned in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, for here, unlike the situation in that case, where the state authorities had implemented the unconstitutional deprivation, the responsible authorities were not found to have played an affirmative part in any unconstitutional deprivations. Pp. 376-377.

(c) Important principles of federalism militate against the proposition, advanced by respondents, that federal equity power should fashion prophylactic procedures designed to minimize misconduct by a handful of state employees, and the District Court's injunctive order, which sharply limited the police department's

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"latitude in the dispatch of its internal affairs," contravened those principles. Pp. 377-380.

506 F.2d 542, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 381. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, after parallel trials of separate actions,1 filed

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in 1970, entered an order in 1973 requiring petitioners

to submit to [the District] Court for its approval a comprehensive program for improving the handling of citizen complaints alleging police misconduct

in accordance with a comprehensive opinion filed together with the order. The proposed program, negotiated between petitioners and respondents for the purpose of complying with the order, was incorporated six months later into a final judgment. Petitioner City Police Commissioner was thereby required, inter alia, to put into force a directive governing the manner by which citizens' complaints against police officers should henceforth be handled by the department.2 The Court of [96 S.Ct. 602] Appeals for

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the Third Circuit, upholding the District Court's finding that the existing procedures for handling citizen complaints were "inadequate," affirmed the District Court's choice of equitable relief: "The revisions were . . . ordered because they appeared to have the potential for prevention of future police misconduct." 506 F.2d 542, 548 (1974). We granted certiorari to consider petitioners' claims that the judgment of the District Court represents an unwarranted intrusion by the federal judiciary into the discretionary authority committed to them by state and local law to perform their official functions. We find ourselves substantially in agreement with these claims, and we therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.


The central thrust of respondents' efforts in the two trials was to lay a foundation for equitable intervention, in one degree or another, because of an assertedly pervasive pattern of illegal and unconstitutional mistreatment by police officers. This mistreatment was said to have been directed against minority citizens in particular

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and against all Philadelphia residents in general. The named individual and group respondents were certified to represent these two classes. The principal petitioners here -- the Mayor, the City Managing Director, and the Police Commissioner -- were charged with conduct ranging from express authorization or encouragement of this mistreatment to failure to act in a manner so as to assure that it would not recur in the future.

Hearing some 250 witnesses during 21 days of hearings, the District Court was faced with a staggering amount of evidence; each of the 40-odd incidents might alone have been the piece de resistance of a short, separate trial. The District Court carefully and conscientiously resolved often sharply conflicting testimony, and made detailed findings of fact,3 which both sides now accept, with respect to eight of the incidents presented by the Goode respondents and with respect to 28 of those presented by COPPAR.4

The principal antagonists in the eight incidents recounted in Goode were Officers DeFazio and D'Amico, members of the city's "Highway Patrol" force. They were not named as parties to the action. The District Court found the conduct of these officers to be violative of the constitutional rights of the citizen complainants in three5 of the incidents, and further found that complaints to the police Board of Inquiry had resulted in one case in a relatively mild five-day suspension, and, in another case, a conclusion that there was no basis for disciplinary action.

In only two of the 28 incidents recounted in COPPAR

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(which ranged in time from October, 1969 to October, 1970) did the District Court draw an explicit conclusion that the police conduct amounted to a deprivation of a federally secured right; it expressly found no police misconduct whatsoever in four of the incidents; and in one other, the departmental policy complained of was subsequently changed. As to the remaining 21, the District Court did not proffer a comment on the degree of misconduct that had occurred: whether simply improvident, illegal under police regulations or state law, or actually violative of the individual's constitutional rights. Respondents' brief asserts that of this latter group, the facts as found [96 S.Ct. 603] in 14 of them "reveal [federal] violations."6 While we think that somewhat of an overstatement, we accept it, arguendo, and thus take it as established that, insofar as the COPPAR record reveals, there were 16 incidents occurring in the city of Philadelphia over a year's time in which numbers of police officers violated citizens' constitutional rights. Additionally, the District...

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