464 U.S. 965 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

WHISENHUNT v. SPRADLIN , 464 U.S. 965 (1983)

464 U.S. 965

Janet Shawgo WHISENHUNT et vir
Lee SPRADLIN et al
No. 82-2148

Supreme Court of the United States

November 7, 1983

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, with whom Justice MARSHALL and Justice BLACKMUN join, dissenting from the denial of certiorari.

This case raises important and recurring questions concerning the due process and privacy rights of public employees and I therefore dissent from the denial of certiorari. Petitioners, a patrolwoman and a police sergeant, were suspended from their jobs, and the sergeant demoted to patrolman, because they dated and spent several nights together. These punishments were imposed even though the department failed to provide petitioners with any reasonable warning that their conduct was prohibited and did not come forward with any evidence that the activity adversely affected their job performance. The Court of Appeals rejected petitioners' contentions that the suspensions and demotion violated their constitutional rights. 701 F.2d 470 (1983).

Although issues concerning the regulation of the private conduct of public employees arise frequently, the lower courts have divided sharply both in their results and in their analytic approach,1

Page 464 U.S. 965 , 966

and guidance from this Court is unquestionably needed. I would grant certiorari and set the case for oral argument.


Petitioners Janet Shawgo 2 and Stanley Whisenhunt met and began dating while both were with the Amarillo, Texas police department. [Footnote 3] Whisenhunt was a sergeant who had been on the force for 11 years; Shawgo was a patrolwoman who had joined the department a year earlier. The two worked different shifts, and Shawgo was not under Whisenhunt's supervision . As their relationship developed, Whisenhunt informed his immediate supervisor, Lieutenant Boydston, that he and Shawgo would probably be spending some nights together. The lieutenant told Whisenhunt that that would be "fine, [but] that I didn't want the two of them setting up housekeeping." Petitioners spent an increasing amount of time together but, as directed by Lieutenant Boydston, maintained separate residences.

Sometime thereafter, respondent Chief of Police Lee Spradlin heard rumors about petitioners' relationship. Without confront- [464 U.S. 965 , 967]

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