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Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales

United States Supreme Court
545 U.S. 748 (2005)


Facts

Jessica Gonzales (plaintiff) filed a complaint against the Town of Castle Rock (defendant) in district court alleging that the town violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution when its police officers, acting pursuant to official policy or custom, failed to respond properly to her repeated reports that her estranged husband was violating the terms of a restraining order. On June 22, 1999, Gonzales noticed her three children were missing. Suspecting that her husband took them, she called the police. Gonzales was previously issued a restraining order stating that the police department must enforce it. It granted limited rights to Gonzales’ husband to visit their three young daughters with notice and pursuant to a court-arranged schedule. She told the police about the restraining order, but the police made no effort to enforce it or search for her children. Gonzales’ husband arrived at the police department and began firing a handgun. The police killed him. Inside the cab of his pickup truck, the police found the bodies of all three daughters, whom he had already murdered. Gonzales’ suit alleged that the department violated the Due Process Clause because it had “an official policy or custom of failing to respond properly to complaints of restraining order violations” and “tolerated the non-enforcement of restraining orders by its police officers.” The complaint also alleged that the town’s actions “were taken either willfully, recklessly or with such gross negligence as to indicate wanton disregard and deliberate indifference to” Gonzales’ civil rights. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that Gonzales failed to state a substantive due process claim, but adequately stated a procedural due process claim. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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Concurrence (Souter, J.)

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Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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