Town Of Castle Rock v. Gonzales

545 U.S. 748 (2005)


P alleges that D violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment 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. P's husband took the three daughters while they were playing outside the family home. Two hours later, P called the Castle Rock Police Department, which dispatched two officers. P requested that the TRO be enforced. The officers stated that there was nothing they could do about the TRO and suggested that P call the Police Department again if the three children did not return home by 10:00 p.m. The husband on his cellular telephone and said he had the three children at the amusement park. P called the police again and asked for them to take action. They refused and told her to wait until 10 p.m. At 10:10 p.m., P called the police and said her children were still missing, but she was now told to wait until midnight. She called at midnight and reported the children still missing. P went to her husband's apartment and, finding nobody there and called the police at 12:10 a.m.; she was told to wait for an officer to arrive. No one came, and P went to the police station at 12:50 a.m. and submitted an incident report. The officer who took the report 'made no reasonable effort to enforce the TRO or locate the three children. The officer went to dinner. At approximately 3:20 a.m., P's husband arrived at the police station and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun he had purchased earlier that evening. Police shot back, killing him. Inside the cab of his pickup truck, they found the bodies of all three daughters, whom he had already murdered. P brought this action claiming that the town violated the Due Process Clause because its police department had 'an official policy or custom of failing to respond properly to complaints of restraining order violations.' Ds filed a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6). The District Court granted the motion. A panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the rejection of a substantive due process claim but found that respondent had alleged a cognizable procedural due process claim. On rehearing en banc, a divided court reached the same disposition, concluding that P had a 'protected property interest in the enforcement of the terms of her restraining order' and that D had deprived her of due process because 'the police never 'heard' nor seriously entertained her request to enforce and protect her interests in the restraining order.' The Supreme Court granted certiorari.