MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, after parallel trials of separate actions
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
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,
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 three
In only two of the 28 incidents recounted in COPPAR
The District Court made a number of conclusions of law, not all of which are relevant to our analysis. It found that the evidence did not establish the existence of any policy on the part of the named petitioners to violate the legal and constitutional rights of the plaintiff classes, but it did find that evidence of departmental procedure indicated a tendency to discourage the filing of civilian complaints and to minimize the consequences of police
The District Court concluded by directing petitioners to draft, for the court's approval, "a comprehensive program for dealing adequately with civilian complaints," to be formulated along the following "guidelines" suggested by the court:
While noting that the "guidelines" were consistent with "generally recognized minimum standards" and imposed "no substantial burdens" on the police department, the District Court emphasized that respondents had no constitutional right to improved police procedures for handling civilian complaints. But given that violations of constitutional rights of citizens occur in "unacceptably" high numbers, and are likely to continue to occur, the court-mandated revision was a "necessary first step" in attempting to prevent future abuses. Ibid. On petitioners' appeal the Court of Appeals affirmed.
These actions were brought, and the affirmative equitable relief fashioned, under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U. S. C. § 1983. It provides that "[e]very person who, under color of [law] subjects, or causes to be subjected, any . . . person within the jurisdiction [of the United States] to the deprivation of any rights . . . secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law [or] suit in equity . . . ." The plain words of the statute impose liability—whether in the form of payment of redressive damages or being placed under an injunction—only for conduct which "subjects, or causes to be subjected" the
The findings of fact made by the District Court at the conclusion of these two parallel trials—in sharp contrast to that which respondents sought to prove with respect to petitioners—disclose a central paradox which permeates that court's legal conclusions. Individual police officers not named as parties to the action were found to have violated the constitutional rights of particular individuals, only a few of whom were parties plaintiff. As the facts developed, there was no affirmative link between the occurrence of the various incidents of police misconduct and the adoption of any plan or policy by petitioners —express or otherwise—showing their authorization or approval of such misconduct. Instead, the sole causal connection found by the District Court between petitioners and the individual respondents was that in the absence of a change in police disciplinary procedures, the incidents were likely to continue to occur, not with respect to them, but as to the members of the classes they represented. In sum, the genesis of this lawsuit—a heated dispute between individual citizens and certain policemen—has evolved into an attempt by the federal judiciary to resolve a "controversy" between the entire citizenry of Philadelphia and the petitioning elected and appointed officials over what steps might, in the Court of Appeals' words, "[appear] to have the potential for prevention of future police misconduct." 506 F. 2d, at 548. The lower courts have, we think, overlooked several significant decisions of this Court in validating this type of litigation and the relief ultimately granted.
We first of all entertain serious doubts whether on the facts as found there was made out the requisite Art. III
That conclusion alone might appear to end the matter, for O'Shea also noted that "if none of the named plaintiffs. . . establishes the requisite of a case or controversy with the defendants, none may seek relief on behalf of himself or any other member of the class" which they purport to represent. 414 U. S., at 494. But, unlike O'Shea, this case did not arise on the pleadings. The District Court, having certified the plaintiff classes,
Nothing in Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496 (1939), the only decision of this Court cited by the District Court,
Likewise, in Allee v. Medrano, 416 U.S. 802 (1974), relied upon by the Court of Appeals and respondents here, we noted:
The numerous incidents of misconduct on the part of the named Texas Rangers, as found by the District Court and summarized in this Court's opinion, established beyond peradventure not only a "persistent pattern" but one which flowed from an intentional, concerted, and indeed conspiratorial effort to deprive the organizers of their First Amendment rights and place them in fear of coming back. Id., at 814-815.
Respondents stress that the District Court not only found an "unacceptably high" number of incidents but held, as did the Court of Appeals, that "when a pattern of frequent police violations of rights is shown, the law is clear that injunctive relief may be granted." 357 F. Supp., at 1318 (emphasis added). However, there was no showing that the behavior of the Philadelphia police was different in kind or degree from that which exists elsewhere; indeed, the District Court found "that the problems disclosed by the record . . . are fairly typical of [those] afflicting police departments in major urban areas." Ibid. Thus, invocation of the word "pattern" in a case where, unlike Hague and Medrano, the defendants are not causally linked to it, is but a distant echo of the findings in those cases. The focus in Hague and Medrano was not simply on the number of violations which occurred but on the common thread running through them: a "pervasive pattern of intimidation" flowing from a deliberate plan by the named defendants to crush the nascent labor organizations. Medrano, supra, at 812. The District Court's unadorned finding of a statistical pattern is quite dissimilar to the factual settings of these two cases.
The theory of liability underlying the District Court's opinion, and urged upon us by respondents, is that even
Respondents claim that the theory of liability embodied in the District Court's opinion is supported by desegregation cases such as Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971). But this case, and the long line of precedents cited therein, simply reaffirmed the body of law originally enunciated in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954):
Respondents, in their effort to bring themselves within the language of Swann, ignore a critical factual distinction between their case and the desegregation cases decided by this Court. In the latter, segregation imposed by law had been implemented by state authorities for varying periods of time, whereas in the instant case the District Court found that the responsible authorities had played no affirmative part in depriving any members of the two respondent classes of any constitutional rights. Those against whom injunctive relief was directed in cases such as Swann and Brown were not administrators and school board members who had in their employ a small number of individuals, which latter on their own deprived black students of their constitutional rights to a unitary school system. They were administrators and school board members who were found by their own conduct in the administration of the school system to have denied those rights. Here, the District Court found that none of the petitioners had deprived the respondent classes of any rights secured under the Constitution. Under the well-established rule that federal "judicial powers may be exercised only on the basis of a constitutional violation," Swann, supra, at 16, this case presented no occasion for the District Court to grant equitable relief against petitioners.
Going beyond considerations concerning the existence of a live controversy and threshold statutory liability, we must address an additional and novel claim advanced by respondent classes. They assert that given the citizenry's "right" to be protected from unconstitutional exercises of police power, and the "need for protection from
Section 1983 by its terms confers authority to grant equitable relief as well as damages, but its words "allow a suit in equity only when that is the proper proceeding for redress, and they refer to existing standards to determine what is a proper proceeding." Giles v. Harris, 189 U.S. 475, 486 (1903) (Holmes, J.). Even in an action between private individuals, it has long been held that an injunction is "to be used sparingly, and only in a clear and plain case." Irwin v. Dixion, 9 How. 10, 33 (1850). When a plaintiff seeks to enjoin the activity of a government agency, even within a unitary court system, his case must contend with "the well-established rule that the Government has traditionally been granted the widest latitude in the `dispatch of its own internal
When the frame of reference moves from a unitary court system, governed by the principles just stated, to a system of federal courts representing the Nation, subsisting side by side with 50 state judicial, legislative, and executive branches, appropriate consideration must be given to principles of federalism in determining the availability and scope of equitable relief. Doran v. Salem Inn, Inc., 422 U.S. 922, 928 (1975).
So strongly has Congress weighted this factor of federalism in the case of a state criminal proceeding that it has enacted 28 U. S. C. § 2283 to actually deny to the district courts the authority to issue injunctions against such proceedings unless the proceedings come within narrowly specified exceptions. Even though an action brought under § 1983, as this was, is within those exceptions, Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225 (1972), the underlying notions of federalism which Congress has recognized in dealing with the relationships between federal and state courts still have weight. Where an injunction against a criminal proceeding is sought under § 1983, "the principles of equity, comity, and federalism" must nonetheless restrain a federal court. 407 U. S., at 243.
But even where the prayer for injunctive relief does not seek to enjoin the state criminal proceedings themselves, we have held that the principles of equity nonetheless militate heavily against the grant of an injunction except in the most extraordinary circumstances. In O'Shea v. Littleton, supra, at 502, we held that "a major
Thus the principles of federalism which play such an important part in governing the relationship between federal courts and state governments, though initially expounded and perhaps entitled to their greatest weight in cases where it was sought to enjoin a criminal prosecution in progress, have not been limited either to that situation or indeed to a criminal proceeding itself. We think these principles likewise have applicability where injunctive relief is sought, not against the judicial branch of the state government, but against those in charge of an executive branch of an agency of state or local governments such as petitioners here. Indeed, in the recent case of Mayor v. Educational Equality League, 415 U.S. 605 (1974), in which private individuals sought injunctive relief against the Mayor of Philadelphia, we expressly noted the existence of such considerations, saying: "There are also delicate issues of federal-state relationships underlying this case." Id., at 615.
Contrary to the District Court's flat pronouncement that a federal court's legal power to "supervise the functioning of the police department . . . is firmly established," it is the foregoing cases and principles that must govern consideration of the type of injunctive relief granted here. When it injected itself by injunctive decree into the internal disciplinary affairs of this state agency, the District Court departed from these precepts.
For the foregoing reasons the judgment of the Court
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL join, dissenting.
To be sure, federal-court intervention in the daily operation of a large city's police department, as the Court intimates, is undesirable and to be avoided if at all possible. The Court appropriately observes, however, ante, at 367, that what the Federal District Court did here was to engage in a careful and conscientious resolution of often sharply conflicting testimony and to make detailed findings of fact, now accepted by both sides, that attack the problem that is the subject of the respondents' complaint. The remedy was one evolved with the defendant officials' assent, reluctant though that assent may have been, and it was one that the police department concededly could live with. Indeed, the District Court, in its memorandum of December 18, 1973, stated that "the resolution of all the disputed items was more nearly in accord with the defendants' position than with the plaintiffs' position," and that the relief contemplated by the earlier orders of March 14, 1973, see COPPAR v. Rizzo, 357 F.Supp. 1289 (ED Pa.), "did not go beyond what the defendants had always been willing to accept." App. 190a. No one, not even this Court's majority, disputes the apparent efficacy of the relief or the fact that it effectuated a betterment in the system and should serve to lessen the number of instances of deprival of constitutional rights of members of the respondent classes. What is worrisome to the Court is abstract principle, and, of course, the Court has a right
But the District Court here, with detailed, careful, and sympathetic findings, ascertained the existence of violations of citizens' constitutional rights, of a pattern of that type of activity, of its likely continuance and recurrence, and of an official indifference as to doing anything about it. The case, accordingly, plainly fits the mold of Allee v. Medrano, 416 U.S. 802 (1974), and Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496 (1939), despite the observation, 357 F. Supp., at 1319, that the evidence "does not establish the existence of any overall Police Department policy to violate the legal and constitutional rights of citizens, nor to discriminate on the basis of race" (emphasis supplied). I am not persuaded that the Court's attempt to distinguish those cases from this one is at all successful. There must be federal relief available against persistent deprival of federal constitutional rights even by (or, perhaps I should say, particularly by) constituted authority on the state side.
The Court entertains "serious doubts," ante, at 371-372, as to whether there is a case or controversy here, citing O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488 (1974). O'Shea, however, presented quite different facts. There, the plaintiff-respondents had alleged a fear of injury from actions that would be subsequent to some future, valid arrest. The Court said:
Here, by contrast, plaintiff-respondents are persons injured by past unconstitutional conduct (an allegation not made in the O'Shea complaint) and fear injury at the hands of the police regardless of whether they have violated a valid law.
To the extent that Part II-A of the Court's opinion today indicates that some constitutional violations might be spread so extremely thin as to prevent any individual from showing the requisite case or controversy, I must agree. I do not agree, however, with the Court's substitution of its judgment for that of the District Court on what the evidence here shows. The Court states that what was shown was minimal, involving only a few incidents out of thousands of arrests in a city of several million population. Small as the ratio of incidents to arrests may be, the District Court nevertheless found a pattern of operation, even if no policy, and one sufficiently significant that the violations "cannot be dismissed as rare, isolated instances." 357 F. Supp., at 1319. Nothing the Court has said demonstrates for me that there is no justification for that finding on this record. The Court's criticism about numbers would be just as forceful, or would miss the mark just as much, with 100 incidents or 500 or even 3,000, when compared with the overall number of arrests made in the city of Philadelphia. The pattern line will appear somewhere. The District Court drew it this side of the number of
The Court today appears to assert that a state official is not subject to the strictures of 42 U. S. C. § 1983 unless he directs the deprivation of constitutional rights. Ante, at 375-377. In so holding, it seems to me, the Court ignores both the language of § 1983 and the case law interpreting that language. Section 1983 provides a cause of action where a person acting under color of state law "subjects, or causes to be subjected," any other person to a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. By its very words, § 1983 reaches not only the acts of an official, but also the acts of subordinates for whom he is responsible. In Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961), the court said that § 1983 "should be read against the background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for the natural consequences of his actions," id., at 187, and:
I do not find it necessary to reach the question under what circumstances failure to supervise will justify an award of money damages, or whether an injunction is authorized where the superior has no consciousness of the wrongs being perpetrated by his subordinates.
Further, the applicability of § 1983 to controlling officers allows the district courts to avoid the necessity of injunctions issued against individual officers and the consequent continuing supervision by the federal courts of the day-to-day activities of the men on the street. The District Court aptly stated:
I would regard what was accomplished in this case as one of those rightly rare but nevertheless justified instances—just as Allee and Hague—of federal-court "intervention" in a state or municipal executive area. The facts, the deprival of constitutional rights, and the pattern are all proved in sufficient degree. And the remedy is carefully delineated, worked out within the administrative structure rather than superimposed by edict upon it, and essentially, and concededly, "livable." In the City of Brotherly Love—or in any other American city—no less should be expected. It is a matter of regret that the Court sees fit to nullify what so meticulously and thoughtfully has been evolved to satisfy an existing need relating to constitutional rights that we cherish and hold dear.