Paul v. Davis Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Petitioner, Paul (Petitioner), as the police chief, issued a bulletin to area storeowners warning of persons known to be shoplifters. The Respondent, Davis (Respondent), was on that list. He claims his reputation was injured by this action.

Facts of the case

“A flyer identifying “”active shoplifters”” was distributed to merchants in the Louisville, Kentucky area. The flyer included a photograph of Edward C. Davis III, who had been arrestedon a shoplifting charge. When the charge was dismissed, Davis brought an action against Edgar Paul, the Louisville chief of police. Davis alleged that the distribution of the flyer had stigmatized him and deprived him of his constitutional rights.”


Did the Petitioner deprive the Respondent of his liberties by designating him as an active shoplifter?


No. Kentucky law does not extend to the Respondent any legal guarantee or present enjoyment of reputation which has been altered as a result of the Petitioner’s actions. The Respondent was not deprived of any liberty or property interests protected by the Due Process Clause.


The Court held that Paul’s alleged defamation, a typical state tort claim, was not actionable under the Due Process Clause and § 1983 . The procedural guarantees of the Due Process Clause could not be the source for a body of general federal tort law. The Court also found that Davis’ injury to reputation was not specially protected by §1983 and the Due Process Clause. Damage to reputation, alone, apart from some more tangible interests, was not sufficient to invoke the protection of the Due Process Clause. Further, Paul did not deprive Davis of any state-provided right, and Davis’ case was not within the constitutional zone of privacy. The Court reversed the judgment.

  • Case Brief: 1976
  • Petitioner: Paul
  • Respondent: Davis
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 424 US 693 (1976)
Argued: Nov 4, 1975
Decided: Mar 23, 1976