Lockport v. Citizens for Community Action
Annotate this Case
430 U.S. 259 (1977)
U.S. Supreme Court
Lockport v. Citizens for Community Action, 430 U.S. 259 (1977)
Town of Lockport v. Citizens for
Community Action at the Local Level, Inc.
Argued November 30-December 1, 1976
Decided March 7, 1977
430 U.S. 259
County government in New York has traditionally taken the form of a single-branch legislature, exercising general governmental powers, and such powers are also exercised by the county's constituent cities, villages, and towns. The allocation of powers among these subdivisions can be changed, and a new form of county government adopted, pursuant to referendum procedures provided by the New York Constitution and an implementing statute, under which a proposed county charter submitted to the voters for approval is adopted only if a majority of the voting city dwellers and a majority of the voting noncity dwellers both approve. After a proposed charter for Niagara County submitted to the voters pursuant to these procedures was defeated (despite the fact that a majority of those voting in the entire county favored it) when the city voters approved it but the noncity voters disapproved it, appellees, a group of Niagara County voters, brought suit in Federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of the procedures, and a three-judge court held that the concurrent majority requirements violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Held: The challenged provisions, which are entitled to a presumption of constitutionality, do not violate the Equal Protection Clause. The separate voter approval requirements are based on the perception that the real and long-term impact of a restructuring of local government is felt quite differently by the different county constituent units that in a sense compete to provide similar governmental services. Voters in these constituent units are directly and differentially affected by the restructuring of county government, which may make the provider of public services more remote and less subject to the voters' individual influence, and these differing interests of city and noncity voters in the adoption of a new county charter are sufficient under the Equal Protection Clause to justify the classifications made under the law. Pp. 430 U. S. 268-273.
Reversed. See 386 F.Supp. 1.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C J., concurred in the judgment.