538 U.S. 1 (2003), 01-1231, Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe

Docket Nº:No. 01-1231
Citation:538 U.S. 1, 123 S.Ct. 1160, 155 L.Ed.2d 98, 71 U.S.L.W. 4125, 71 U.S.L.W. 4158
Party Name:Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe
Case Date:March 05, 2003
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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538 U.S. 1 (2003)

123 S.Ct. 1160, 155 L.Ed.2d 98, 71 U.S.L.W. 4125, 71 U.S.L.W. 4158

Connecticut Department of Public Safety

v.

Doe

No. 01-1231

United States Supreme Court

March 5, 2003

Argued November 13, 2002

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

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, 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 pre-deprivation 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 defamatory,

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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 dangerous -- that 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. 66-8.

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. (see No. 01-729), filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 110.

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OPINION

REHNQUIST, CHIEF JUSTICE.

We granted certiorari to determine whether the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit properly enjoined

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the public disclosure of Connecticut's sex offender registry. The Court of Appeals concluded 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 pre-deprivation hearing to determine whether they are likely to be "currently dangerous." Doe v. Department of Public Safety ex rel. Lee, 271 F.3d 38, 44, 46 (2001). Connecticut, however, has decided that the registry requirement shall be based on the fact of previous conviction, not the fact of current dangerousness. Indeed, the public registry explicitly states that officials have not determined that any registrant is currently dangerous. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals because due process does not require the opportunity to prove a fact that is not material to the State's statutory scheme.

"Sex offenders are a serious threat in this Nation." McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 32 (2002) (plurality opinion). "[T]he victims of sex assault are most often juveniles," and "[w]hen convicted sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sex assault." Id. at 32-33. Connecticut, like every other State, has responded to these facts by enacting a statute designed to protect its communities from sex offenders and to help apprehend repeat sex offenders. Connecticut's "Megan's Law" applies to all persons convicted of criminal offenses against a minor, violent and nonviolent sexual offenses, and felonies committed for a sexual purpose. Covered offenders must register with the Connecticut Department of Public Safety (DPS) upon their release into the community. Each must provide personal information (including his name, address, photograph, and DNA sample); notify DPS of any change in residence; and periodically submit an updated photograph. The registration requirement runs for 10 years in most cases; those convicted

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of sexually violent offenses must register for life. Conn.Gen.Stat. §§ 54-251, 54-252, 54-254 (2001).

The statute requires DPS to compile the information gathered from registrants and publicize it. In particular, the law requires DPS to post a sex offender registry on an Internet Website and to make the registry available to the public in certain state offices. §§ 54-257, 54-258. Whether made available in an office or via the Internet, the registry must be accompanied by the following warning:

"Any person who uses information in this registry to injure, harass or commit a criminal act against any person included in the registry or any other person is subject to criminal prosecution."

§ 54-258a.

Before the District Court enjoined its operation, the State's Website enabled citizens to obtain the name, address, photograph, and description of any registered sex offender by entering a zip code or town name. The following disclaimer appeared on the first page of the Website:

"The registry is based on the legislature's decision to facilitate access to publicly available information about persons convicted of sexual offenses. [DPS] has not considered or assessed the specific risk of reoffense with regard to any individual prior to his or her inclusion within this registry, and has made no determination that any individual included in the registry is currently dangerous. Individuals included within the...

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