LOCATION: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
DOCKET NO.: 01-1231
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
CITATION: 538 US 1 (2003)
ARGUED: Nov 13, 2002
DECIDED: Mar 05, 2003
Richard Blumenthal - Hartford, Connecticut, argued the cause for the petitioners
Shelley R. Sadin - Argued on behalf of respondents
Theodore B. Olson - Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioners
Facts of the case
Connecticut's "Megan's Law" requires persons convicted of sexual offenses to register with the Department of Public Safety and requires the Department to post a sex offender registry containing registrants' names, addresses, photographs, and descriptions on the Internet. John Doe, a convicted sex offender who is subject to the law, filed suit, claiming that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The District Court enjoined the law's public disclosure provisions. In affirming, the Court of Appeals concluded that such disclosure violated the Due Process Clause because officials did not afford registrants a predeprivation hearing.
Does the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause require that persons convicted of sexual offenses subject to Connecticut's "Megan's Law" receive a hearing before the public disclosure of their registry?
Media for Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. DoeAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 13, 2002 in Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 05, 2003 in Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe
William H. Rehnquist:
I have the opinion of the Court to announce in Connecticut Department of Public Safety versus Doe.
Connecticut like every other State has enacted a law known as Megan's Law that is designed to protect its communities from sex offenders and to help apprehend repeat sex offenders.
The same sort of law that was involved in the Alaska ex post facto opinion that Justice Kennedy announced earlier.
That statute requires persons convicted at sexual offenses to register with the Department of Public Safety upon their release.
The Department in term must post a registry containing offenders' name, addresses, photographs and descriptions on an internet website.
Respondent is a convicted sex offender who is subject to the Connecticut statute; he filed an action claiming that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause.
The District Court granted respondent summary judgment and permanently enjoined the law's public disclosure provision.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed concluding that the Due Process Clause entitles respondent to a hearing to determine whether he is likely to be currently dangerous.
Because Connecticut had not provided such a hearing, the Court enjoined petitioners from disclosing the registry information.
In an opinion filed with the Clerk of the Court today, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.
The Due Process Clause does not entitle respondent to a hearing to establish factors immaterial under the statute.
The fact that he seeks to prove that he is not likely to be a current dangerous is of no consequence under Connecticut's Megan's Law.
As the Department Website explains, the law's requirements turn on offender's conviction alone, a fact that a convicted offender has already had a procedurally safeguarded opportunities to contest.
Even if respondent could prove that he is not likely to be currently dangerous, Connecticut has decided that the registry information of all sex offenders, currently dangerous or not, must be publicly disclosed.
Unless respondent can show that that subtantive rule of law is defective, any hearing on current dangerous list is a bootless exercise.
It maybe that respondent's claim is actually a substantive challenge to the statute recast in procedural due process' terms.
Nonetheless, the respondent expressly disavows any reliance on the substantive component of the Fouteenth Amendment's protection and maintains as he did below that his challenge is strictly a procedural one.
But States are not barred by principles of procedural due process from drawing such classification.
Such claims must ultimately be analyzed in terms of substantive not procedural due process.
Because the question is not properly before us, we express no opinion as to whether Connecticut's Megan's Law violates principles of substantive due process.
Justice Scalia has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Souter has also filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Ginsburg has joined; Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.