Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. John Doe, 538 U.S. 1; 123 S. Ct. 1160; 155 L. Ed. 2d 93 (2003)

Facts—Connecticut’s “Megan’s Law” requires individuals convicted of sexual offenses to register with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) upon their release. The department makes an Internet registry available in which individuals can find the names and addresses of such individuals within their communities. The respondent, a convicted sex offender subject to the law, obtained a summary judgment from a District Court enjoining this posting on the basis that it violated his “liberty interest” and on the basis that it violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by not affording him a pre-deprivation hearing to determine his current dangerousness. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court injunction.

Question—Does a state law requiring the posting of the names of sexual offenders on the Internet violate the liberty interest or the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?


ReasonsC.J. Rehnquist (9–0). Rehnquist cited a precedent indicating that “Sex offenders are a serious threat in this Nation.” Megan’s Law was a response to this threat. The DPS posting was accompanied by a warning that use of the directory for injury or harassment was illegal and indicating that it had made no individualized determination that individuals listed were currently dangerous. Although the respondent contends that having his name listed on the registry damages his reputation, the Court ruled in Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976) that “mere injury to reputation, even if defamatory, does not constitute the deprivation of a liberty interest.” However, even if he were entitled to such a hearing, “due process did not entitle him to a hearing to establish a fact that was not material under the Connecticut statute.” Megan’s Law applied whether or not an individual was considered to be currently dangerous or not, so an individualized determination of this fact would not remove his name from the list. The respondent disavowed “any reliance on the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections.” He therefore has no case.

J. Scalia, concurring, noted that even if the law violates a liberty interest, he has received “due process” because this interest has been abridged by a validly adopted law.

J. Souter, concurring, noted that the decision “does not foreclose a claim that Connecticut’s dissemination of registry information is actionable on a substantive due process principle.” Moreover, the fact that Connecticut allows certain sexual offenders to avoid the registration and reporting obligations also raises the possibility of an equal protection challenge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Law Faculty
error: Content is protected !!