The New York City Police Department (defendant) dismissed Mr. Velger (plaintiff) from his probationary position as a patrolman. Velger then sought a position with the Penn-Central Railroad Police Department. An officer from the Railroad Police Department read the City Police Department’s file on Velger, which contained information suggesting that Velger was dismissed because he attempted suicide while a trainee. The officer from the Railroad Police Department attempted to verify this story, but the City Police Department did not cooperate. Velger sued the City Police Department for wrongful dismissal, claiming that he was improperly dismissed without a hearing or statement of reasons. He sought, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, reinstatement and damages for resulting injury to his reputation and future employment opportunities. The trial court focused its attention on whether Velger’s dismissal imposed a stigma that foreclosed his freedom to take advantage of future employment opportunities. The court concluded that Velger had not demonstrated that he was so stigmatized. Velger appealed, and the appellate court held that the finding of no stigma was clearly erroneous. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.