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Schoolchildren - Yes, Policemen - No - Some Thoughts About the Supreme Court's Priorities Concerning the Right to a Hearing in Suspension and Removal Cases

NCJ Number
Northwestern University Law Review Volume: 72 Issue: 1 Dated: (March-April 1977) Pages: 146-170
V G Rosenblum
Date Published
26 pages
To assess the present state of the law with regard to assuring due process for police officers about to be dismissed from duty, this paper studies three recent opinions from Justice Stevens in the Supreme Court.
Once the Supreme Court affirmed in Goss v. Lopez the constitutional right under the due process clause of children to hearings before they could be suspended from a public school for up to 10 days, it seemed logical to assume that police officers would be constitutionally entitled to hearings before they could be fired. Especially opaque to the community's interest in fair dealing by the police and to the police was Justice Steven's statement in Bishop v. Wood that the Federal court is not the appropriate forum in which to review the multitude of personnel decisions made daily by public agencies. Reviewing a multitude of personnel decisions is quite different from insisting that there be fair standards to govern the exercise of discretion by officials responsible for making those personnel decisions. Nowhere has the key to fairness been delineated better than in Justice Stevens's own dissenting opinion in City of Eastlake, v. Forest City Enterprises where he stated that the essence of fair procedure is that the interested parties be given a reasonable opportunity to have their dispute resolved on the merits by references to articulable rules. The police officer in Bishop had no reasonable opportunity to have his dispute with the city manager resolved on the merits by reference to articulable rules, but was victimized instead by unchanneled and unchallengeable discretion. If the Court may give schoolchildren the right to a hearing before suspension, then logically, it should also grant the same right to police officers before they are fired. Mention is also made of the case of Codd v. Velger. A total of 127 casenotes are included. (Author abstract modified)