510 U.S. 266 (1994), 92-833, Albright v. Oliver

Docket Nº:Case No. 92-833
Citation:510 U.S. 266, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114, 62 U.S.L.W. 4078
Party Name:ALBRIGHT v. OLIVER et al.
Case Date:January 24, 1994
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 266

510 U.S. 266 (1994)

114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114, 62 U.S.L.W. 4078

ALBRIGHT

v.

OLIVER et al.

Case No. 92-833

United States Supreme Court

January 24, 1994

         Argued October 12, 1993

        CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

        Syllabus

Upon learning that Illinois authorities had issued an arrest warrant charging him with the sale of a substance which looked like an illegal drug, petitioner Albright surrendered to respondent Oliver, a policeman, and was released after posting bond. At a preliminary hearing, Oliver testified that Albright sold the look-alike substance to a third party, and the court found probable cause to bind Albright over for trial. However, the court later dismissed the action on the ground that the charge did not state an offense under state law. Albright then filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Oliver deprived him of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment—his "liberty interest"— to be free from criminal prosecution except upon probable cause. The District Court dismissed on the ground that the complaint did not state a claim under § 1983. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that prosecution without probable cause is a constitutional tort actionable under § 1983 only if accompanied by incarceration, loss of employment, or some other "palpable consequenc[e]."

          Held:

The judgment is affirmed.

  975 F.2d 343, affirmed.

        Chief Justice Rehnquist, joined by Justice O'Connor, Justice Scalia, and Justice Ginsburg, concluded that Albright's claimed right to be free from prosecution without probable cause must be judged under the Fourth Amendment, and that substantive due process, with its "scarce and open-ended" "guideposts for responsible decisionmaking," Collins v. Harker Heights,  503 U.S. 115, 125, can afford Albright no relief. Where a particular Amendment "provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection" against a particular sort of government behavior, "that Amendment, not the more generalized notion of 'substantive due process,' must be the guide for analyzing" such a claim.  Graham v. Connor,  490 U.S. 386, 395. The Fourth Amendment addresses the matter of pretrial deprivations of liberty, and the Court has noted that Amendment's relevance to the liberty deprivations that go hand in hand with criminal prosecutions. See  Gerstein v. Pugh,  420 U.S. 103, 114. The Court has said that the accused is not "entitled to judicial oversight or review of the decision to prosecute."  Id.,  at 118-

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119. But Albright was not merely charged; he submitted himself to arrest. No view is expressed as to whether his claim would succeed under the Fourth Amendment, since he has not presented the question in his certiorari petition. Pp. 271-275.

        Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Thomas, determined that Albright's due process claim concerns not his arrest but instead the malicious initiation of a baseless criminal prosecution against him. The due process requirements for criminal proceedings do not include a standard for the initiation of a prosecution. Moreover, even assuming,  arguendo,  that the common-law interest in freedom from malicious prosecution is protected by the Due Process Clause, there is neither need nor legitimacy in invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in this case, given the fact that Illinois provides a tort remedy for malicious prosecution and the Court's holding in  Parratt v. Taylor,  451 U.S. 527, 535-544, that a state actor's random and unauthorized deprivation of such a due process interest cannot be challenged under § 1983 so long as the State provides an adequate postdeprivation remedy. Pp. 281-286.

        Justice Souter concluded that, because this case presents no substantial burden on liberty beyond what the Fourth Amendment is generally thought to redress already, petitioner has not justified recognition of a substantive due process violation in his prosecution without probable cause. Substantive due process should be reserved for otherwise homeless substantial claims, and should not be relied on when doing so will duplicate protection that a more specific constitutional provision already bestows. Petitioner's asserted injuries—including restraints on his movement, damage to his reputation, and mental anguish—are not alleged to have flowed from the formal instrument of prosecution, as distinct from the ensuing police seizure of his person; have been treated by the Courts of Appeals as within the ambit of compensability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for Fourth Amendment violations; and usually occur only after an arrest or other seizure. Pp. 286-291.

        Rehnquist, C. J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which O'Connor, Scalia, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Scalia, J.,  post,  p. 275, and Ginsburg, J.,  post,  p. 276, filed concurring opinions. Kennedy, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Thomas, J., joined,  post,  p. 281. Souter, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment,  post,  p. 286. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Blackmun, J., joined,  post,  p. 291.

          John H. Bisbee  argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was  Barry Nakell.  

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          James G. Sotos  argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were  Michael W. Condon, Charles E. Hervas,  and  Michael D. Bersani.[*]

        Chief Justice Rehnquist announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Justice O'Connor, Justice Scalia, and Justice Ginsburg join.

        A warrant was issued for petitioner's arrest by Illinois authorities, and upon learning of it he surrendered and was released on bail. The prosecution was later dismissed on the ground that the charge did not state an offense under Illinois law. Petitioner asks us to recognize a substantive right under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to be free from criminal prosecution except upon probable cause. We decline to do so.

        We review a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirming the grant of a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and we must therefore accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true. Illinois authorities issued an arrest warrant for petitioner Kevin Albright, charging him on the basis of a previously filed criminal information with the sale of a substance which looked like an illegal drug. When he learned of the outstanding warrant, petitioner surrendered to respondent, Roger Oliver, a police detective employed by the city of Macomb, but denied his guilt of such an offense. He was released after posting bond, one of the conditions of which was that he not leave the State without permission of the court.[1]

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        At a preliminary hearing, respondent Oliver testified that petitioner sold the look-alike substance to Moore, and the court found probable cause to bind petitioner over for trial. At a later pretrial hearing, the court dismissed the criminal action against petitioner on the ground that the charge did not state an offense under Illinois law.

        Albright then instituted this action under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Detective Oliver in his individual and official capacities, alleging that Oliver deprived him of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment—his "liberty interest"—to be free from criminal prosecution except upon probable cause.[2] The District Court granted respondent's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) on the ground that the complaint did not state a claim under § 1983.[3] The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed, 975 F.2d 343 (1992), relying on our decision in  Paul v. Davis,  424 U.S. 693 (1976). The Court of Appeals held that prosecution without probable cause is a constitutional tort actionable under § 1983 only if accompanied by incarceration or loss of employment or some other "palpable

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consequenc[e]." 975 F.2d, at 346-347. The panel of the Seventh Circuit reasoned that "just as in the garden-variety public-officer defamation case that does not result in exclusion from an occupation, state tort remedies should be adequate and the heavy weaponry of constitutional litigation can be left at rest."  Id.,  at 347.[4] We granted certiorari, 507

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U.S. 959 (1993), and while we affirm the judgment below, we do so on different grounds. We hold that it is the Fourth Amendment, and not substantive due process, under which petitioner Albright's claim must be judged.

        Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights," but merely provides "a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred."  Baker v. McCollan,  443 U.S. 137, 144, n. 3 (1979). The first step in any such claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed.  Graham v. Connor,  490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989); and  Baker v. McCollan, supra,  at 140.

        Petitioner's claim before this Court is a very limited one. He claims that the action of respondents infringed his substantive due process right to be free of prosecution without probable cause. He does not claim that Illinois denied him the procedural due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Nor does he claim a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, notwithstanding the fact that his surrender to the State's show of authority constituted a seizure for purposes of the Fourth Amendment.  Terry v. Ohio,  392 U.S. 1, 19 (1968); Brower v. County of Inyo,  489 U.S. 593, 596 (1989).[5]

        We begin analysis of petitioner's claim by repeating our observation in  Collins v. Harker Heights,  503 U.S. 115, 125(1992). "As a general matter,...

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