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Connecticut Dept Of Public Safety V Doe

3-5-2003 Connecticut:

Connecticut Dept. Of Public Safety V. Doe (Oral Argument)

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 predeprivation hearing to determine whether they are likely to be “currently dangerous.”

U.S. Supreme court 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, 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.
Note: A review of both of these cases will show, that, in today's climate of dozens of laws affecting a person's reputation on both the federal and state levels, this is no longer a "mere injury to reputation," now it is equivalent to civil death in society. A second point is, in Paul v Davis there was an exception, it said, if it affects one's employment then it is no longer a "mere injury" and today we see sex offenders laws clearly preventing registrants from any gainful employment.
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. 4—6.

271 F.3d 38, reversed.

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