Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe
Annotate this Case
538 U.S. 1 (2003)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
OCTOBER TERM, 2002
CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY ET AL. v. DOE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
No.01-1231. Argued November 13, 2002-Decided March 5, 2003
Among other things, Connecticut's "Megan's Law" requires persons convicted of sexual offenses to register with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) upon their release into the community, and requires DPS to post a sex offender registry containing registrants' names, addresses, photographs, and descriptions on an Internet Website and to make the registry available to the public in certain state offices. Respondent Doe (hereinafter respondent), a convicted sex offender who is subject to the law, filed a 42 U. S. C. § 1983 action on behalf of himself and similarly situated sex offenders, claiming that the law violates, inter alia, the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The District Court granted respondent summary judgment, certified a class of individuals subject to the law, and permanently enjoined the law's public disclosure provisions. The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that such disclosure both deprived registered sex offenders of a "liberty interest," and violated the Due Process Clause because officials did not afford registrants a predeprivation hearing to determine whether they are likely to be "currently dangerous."
Held: The Second Circuit's judgment must be reversed because due process does not require the opportunity to prove a fact that is not material to the State's statutory scheme. Mere injury to reputation, even if del
famatory, does not constitute the deprivation of a liberty interest. Paul v. Davis, 424 U. S. 693. But even assuming, arguendo, that respondent has been deprived of a liberty interest, due process does not entitle him to a hearing to establish a fact-that he is not currently dangerousthat is not material under the statute. Cf., e. g., Wisconsin v. Constantineau, 400 U. S. 433. As the DPS Website explains, the law's requirements turn on an offender's conviction alone-a fact that a convicted offender has already had a procedurally safeguarded opportunity to contest. Unless respondent can show that the substantive rule of law is defective (by conflicting with the Constitution), any hearing on current dangerousness is a bootless exercise. Respondent expressly disavows any reliance on the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment's protections, and maintains that his challenge is strictly a procedural one. But States are not barred by principles of "procedural due process" from drawing such classifications. Michael H. v. Gerald D., 491 U. S. 110, 120 (plurality opinion). Such claims "must ultimately be analyzed" in terms of substantive due process. Id., at 121. Because the question is not properly before the Court, it expresses no opinion as to whether the State's law violates substantive due process principles. Pp.6-8.
271 F.3d 38, reversed.
REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, SOUTER, THOMAS, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 8. SOUTER, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined, post, p. 9. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 110.
Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General of Connecticut, argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Gregory T. D'Auria, Associate Attorney General, and Lynn D. Wittenbrink, Perry Zinn Rowthorn, and Mark F. Kohler, Assistant Attorneys General.
Solicitor General Olson argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Assistant Attorney General McCallum, Deputy Solicitor General Clement, Gregory G. Garre, Leonard Schaitman, and Mark W Pennak.