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Article III, Section 4

Subsequent Punishment

(518) KELLEY v. JOHNSON


425 US 238 (1976)
Justice Rehnquist

POINT OF THE CASE:


Even if the 14th amendment protected a liberty interest in personal appearance, it is outweighed
under the rationality standard by the public interest in maintaining police officers readily recognizable to
the public by providing uniform standards of appearance.

FACTS:
The grooming standards of New York’s Suffolk County Police Department established for its
officers a specific style and length of hair, regulated sideburns and mustaches, banned beards and
goatees, but allowed wigs for cosmetic reasons. The debated policy stated: “Hair will not touch the ears or
the collar except closely cut hair on the back of the neck.” The police department contended that
uniformity of appearance contributed to officer safety and advanced the department’s esprit de corps.
However, the respondent policeman claimed that the police department’s guidelines violated his right of
free expression under the First Amendment and his liberty interests under the Fourteenth Amendment.

ISSUE: WON the regulation is arbitrary and violative of the respondent’s freedom of expression.

RULING:
No. The US Supreme Court majority noted that state and federal employers could impose
considerable restrictions on their employees that could not be imposed on citizens outside that
employment context. The Court concluded that the respondent failed to show the regulation was so
irrational that it was arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Even if the 14th amendment protected a liberty interest in personal appearance, it is outweighed
under the rationality standard by the public interest in maintaining police officers readily recognizable to
the public by providing uniform standards of appearance. Although a like regulation of the general public
might be too intrusive, Kelley was not a “member of the citizenry at large.”