Albright v. Oliver

PETITIONER: Albright
RESPONDENT: Oliver et al.
LOCATION: Kiryas Joel Village School District

DOCKET NO.: 92-833
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 510 US 266 (1994)
ARGUED: Oct 12, 1993
DECIDED: Jan 24, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Harvey Grossman - for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
John H. Bisbee - on behalf of the Petitioner
John A. Powell - for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
James G. Sotos - on behalf of the Respondents
Leon Friedman - for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Richard Ruda - for the National League of Cities et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance
Steven R. Shapiro - for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amici curiae urging reversal

Facts of the case

Illinois police obtained a warrant to arrest Kevin Albright after he was seen selling a substance which look liked an illegal drug. Upon hearing of the warrant, Albright surrendered to police detective Roger Oliver. A trial court dismissed the charge because it did not state an offense under Illinois law.

Albright claimed that Oliver violated his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right by prosecuting him without probable cause. He filed suit against Oliver under 42 U.S.C. 1983, which provides relief to those deprived of civil rights. The federal District Court dismissed the suit because it did not state a claim under Section 1983. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that relief provided by Section 1983 for prosecution without probable cause is valid only if the prosecution caused a consequence such as loss of employment or incarceration.

Question

Can a citizen prosecuted without probable cause obtain relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for the deprivation of substantive due process rights?

Media for Albright v. Oliver

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 12, 1993 in Albright v. Oliver

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 24, 1994 in Albright v. Oliver

William H. Rehnquist:

In the last of the four cases which I have to announce is Albright against Oliver, No.92-833.

This case presents the question whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment recognizes a substantive right to be free from criminal prosecution except upon probable cause.

Upon learning that an arrest warrant had been issued charging him with the crime of selling a substance that looked like an illegal drug, petitioner, Kevin Albright in Illinois, surrendered to respondent, Roger Oliver, a policeman, and was released after posting bond.

Later at a preliminary hearing, the policeman, Oliver, testified that Albright sold a look-a-like substance to a confidential informant and the court found probable cause to bind Albright over for trial.

However, the court later dismissed the action because the charge did not state an offense under Illinois law.

Albright then filed this suit under Section 1983 alleging that Oliver deprived him of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to be free from criminal prosecution except on probable cause.

The District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled against him.

In deciding this case, we have produced a veritable cornucopia of opinions.

I have filed an opinion with the Clerk, joined by Justices O'Connor, Scalia, and Ginsburg which concludes that Albright's claimed right to be free from prosecution without probable cause must be judged under the Fourth Amendment and not the vague area of substantive due process.

Since Albright asserted only the latter, his claim must fail.

Justice Scalia and Ginsburg have filed separate concurring opinions; Justice Kennedy has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment which is joined by Justice Thomas; Justice Souter has also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Blackmun has joined.