Parratt v. Taylor
Annotate this Case
451 U.S. 527 (1981)
U.S. Supreme Court
Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981)
Parratt v. Taylor
Argued March 2, 1981
Decided May 18, 1981
451 U.S. 527
Respondent, an inmate of a Nebraska prison, ordered by mail certain hobby materials. After being delivered to the prison, the packages containing the materials were lost when the normal procedure for receipt of mail packages was not followed. Respondent brought an action in Federal District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against petitioner prison officials to recover the value of the hobby materials, claiming that petitioners had negligently lost the materials, and thereby deprived respondent of property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court entered summary judgment for respondent, holding that negligent actions by state officials can be a basis for an action under § 1983, that petitioners were not immune from liability, and that the deprivation of the hobby materials implicated due process rights. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: Respondent has not stated a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pp. 451 U. S. 531-544.
(a) In any § 1983 action, the initial inquiry must focus on whether the two essential elements to a § 1983 action are present: (1) whether the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) whether this conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Pp. 451 U. S. 531-535.
(b) Although respondent has been deprived of property under color of state law, he has not sufficiently alleged a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The deprivation did not occur as the result of some established state procedure, but as the result of the unauthorized failure of state agents to follow established state procedure. Moreover, Nebraska has a tort claims procedure which provides a remedy to persons who have suffered a tortious loss at the hands of the State, but which respondent did not use. Such procedure could have fully compensated respondent for his property loss, and was sufficient to satisfy the requirements of due process. Pp. 451 U. S. 535-544.
620 F.2d 307, reversed.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ.,
joined. STEWART, J., post, p. 451 U. S. 544, WHITE, J., post, p. 451 U. S. 545, and BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 451 U. S. 545, filed concurring opinions. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 451 U. S. 546. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part., post p. 451 U. S. 554.