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County of Sacramento v. Lewis

United States Supreme Court
523 U.S. 833 (1998)



James Everett Smith, a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, and another officer, Murray Stapp, responded to a call to break up a fight. Upon returning to their patrol car, Stapp saw a motorcycle approaching at a very high speed which was operated by Brian Willard, age 18, and carried Philip Lewis, age 16. Willard sped off and Smith pursued at speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour. The chase ended when the motorcycle tipped over, causing Smith to strike and kill Lewis who could not get out of the way. Lewis’ parents (plaintiffs) brought suit in district court alleging Smith and the County of Sacramento Police Department (defendants) violated Lewis’ substantive due process right to life under the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court denied Lewis’ request for relief. The court of appeals reversed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Souter, J.)

Concurrence (Stevens, J.)

Concurrence (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Concurrence (Kennedy, J.)

Concurrence (Breyer, J.)

Concurrence (Scalia, J.)

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