NORTH V. RUSSELL, 427 U. S. 328 (1976)

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U.S. Supreme Court

North v. Russell, 427 U.S. 328 (1976)

North v. Russell

No. 74-1409

Argued December 9, 1975

Decided June 28, 1976

427 U.S. 328


Under Kentucky's two-tier court system, police courts (the first tier) have jurisdiction of misdemeanor cases, but an accused has an appeal of right from a police judge's decision to the circuit court (the second tier), where there is a trial de novo. The State Constitution requires cities in Kentucky to be classified according to population size. By statute, judges of police courts in cities of less than a certain population need not be lawyers, but, in larger cities, they must be, and all circuit court judges are lawyers. In this challenge to the constitutionality of the statutory scheme, held:

1. An accused, who is charged with a misdemeanor for which he is subject to possible imprisonment, is not denied due process when tried before a nonlawyer police court judge in one of the smaller cities, when a later trial de novo is available in the circuit court. Ward v. Village of Monroeville, 409 U. S. 57; Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U. S. 510, distinguished. Pp. 427 U. S. 333-339.

2. Nor does the State deny such an accused equal protection of the laws by providing law-trained judges for some police courts and lay judges for others, depending upon the State Constitution's classification of cities according to population, since, as long as all people within each classified area are treated equally, the different classifications within the court system are justified. Missouri v. Lewis, 101 U. S. 22. Pp. 427 U. S. 338-339.


BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., concurred in the result. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 427 U. S. 339. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 427 U. S. 329

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