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Case Name Goode v. Tate PN-PA-0022
Docket / Court 70-491 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
This summary covers three cases that were filed separately but involve similar allegations. First, plaintiffs in Goode v. Tate (No. 70-491) alleged that Philadelphia police habitually violated the constitutional rights of Black citizens because of racial bias. The plaintiffs further alleged ... read more >
This summary covers three cases that were filed separately but involve similar allegations. First, plaintiffs in Goode v. Tate (No. 70-491) alleged that Philadelphia police habitually violated the constitutional rights of Black citizens because of racial bias. The plaintiffs further alleged that the Philadelphia Police Department, including supervisors, knew of about the racial animus but failed to take appropriate disciplinary actions. The complaint was filed in February 1970 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and named as defendants the Mayor and Police Commissioner of Philadelphia, among others. Judge John Fullam presided. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief to discipline the offending officers and to create a new system of responding to civil complaints against police.

The second case was Council of Organization on Philadelphia Police Accountability and Responsibility (No. 70-2430) (hereinafter COPPAR). Filed seven months after Goode v. Tate, this case was also filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and was assigned to Judge Fullam. Like Goode, the plaintiffs alleged that the police department routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black citizens. Most of the defendants overlapped between the two cases, too. The plaintiffs in COPPAR sought injunctive relief in the form of a "receiver" to monitor the police department.

The third case was Alexander v. Rizzo (No. 70-992). It was also filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, but was assigned to Judge John Lord. The complaint alleged that the murder of a Philadelphia police officer led to widespread investigatory arrests that were discriminatorily executed on Black individuals. Unlike the first two cases, this was ended relatively quickly in a consent decree that detailed the standards of probable cause for an arrest.

Both the Goode and COPPAR proceeded before Judge Fullam. Because these two cases sought injunctive relief on behalf of essentially the same class of plaintiffs, the cases were adjudicated together. On March 14, 1973, Judge Fullam ordered the police departments to propose new policies for responding to civilian complaints. 357 F. Supp. 1289. Judge Fullam noted that the old procedures were inadequate because they were geared to handle police infractions but not violations of constitutional rights; civilian complaints were discouraged because they were handled on a "chain of command" basis; there was no adequate opportunity for complainants to present their case in an objective tribunal; the outcomes of proceedings were not disclosed; and there was a tendency to minimize the consequences of proven police misconduct. In ordering reforms to be made to the civilian complaint process, Judge Fullam noted that such policies may take the form of revisions to police manuals, revisions of procedures for processing complaints, and updates to civilians that submitted the complaints. Judge Fullam later approved the proposed revisions.

The plaintiffs subsequently moved for attorneys' fees and, on October 5, 1973, Judge Fullam granted them. 60 F.R.D. 615. Judge Fullam awarded $25,000 to the attorneys in the Goode case and $10,000 to the attorneys in the COPPAR case.

The defendants appealed both the decision to grant injunctive relief and the decision to award attorney's fees. On January 21, 1976, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming the injunctive relief, but vacating and remanding the award of counsel fees. 506 F.2d 542. As to the former, the Court of Appeals held that, while only a small percentage of officers were accountable for the misconduct, the violations of constitutional rights were widespread enough to support a finding for the plaintiffs. They also argued that the injunctive order was limited and moderate. They did not grant a receiver to watch over the PDP, but rather told the department to submit proposals for bringing themselves into compliance. However, the Third Circuit held that the decision to award attorney's fees was not adequately explained. The District Court had not explained on what legal basis they were granting attorney's fees, nor did they concisely explain which defendants would be ordered to pay what portion of the fees. So the award of attorney's fees was vacated and remanded.

The defendants appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. On March 31, 1975, the Court granted certiorari. 420 U.S. 1003.

The Supreme Court issued its opinion on January 21, 1976. 423 U.S. 362. The opinion, written by Justice Rehnquist, held that: 1) the plaintiffs lacked a requisite Article III "case or controversy", since their main concerns lay with a small minority of police officers; and 2) the District Court's judgment was an unwarranted intrusion into the operations of the police department. Specifically, to this second point, the Court held 20 incidents of constitutional deprivation was not "unacceptably high" in a city of 3 million, and that the District Court's equitable relief was aimed at parties not directly involved in those incidents. They also held that "principles of federalism" caution against the use of equitable relief in this instance. The District Court and Appellate Court's decisions were reversed.

The Clearinghouse does not have access to any documents subsequent to the January 21, 1976 Supreme Court ruling.

Jack Hibbard - 11/23/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Race discrimination
Communication skills
Disparate Treatment
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Grievance Procedures
Inadequate citizen complaint investigations and procedures
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Pattern or Practice
Racial profiling
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Commissioner of Police
Plaintiff Description Black citizens of Philadelphia
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Unknown
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 02/01/1970
Case Closing Year 1976
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PN-PA-0021 : Council of Organizations on Philadelphia Police Accountability and Responsibility (COPPAR) v. Rizzo (E.D. Pa.)
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
No documents currently in the collection

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