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

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Rizzo v. Goode

No. 74-942

Argued November 11, 1975

Decided January 21, 1976

423 U.S. 362


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

Page 423 U. S. 363

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. 423 U. S. 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. 423 U. S. 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. 423 U. S. 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. 423 U. S. 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

Page 423 U. S. 364

"latitude in the dispatch of its internal affairs," contravened those principles. Pp. 423 U. S. 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. 423 U. S. 381. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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