Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales
545 U.S. 748 (2005)

  • Jessica was married to a guy who was a little crazy. She filed for divorce and got a restraining order against him.
  • Jessica’s husband came and took their three children, in violation of the restraining order. Jessica called the police multiple times, but they took no action to retrieve the children.
    • Despite the fact that the restraining order explicitly tells the police that they “shall use every reasonable means to enforce this order.”
  • Jessica’s husband eventually killed all three children.
  • Jessica sued the police and the town, arguing that their inaction had resulted in the deaths of the children, and that was an unconstitutional violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
    • Jessica argued that there was a Federally-protected property interest in enforcement of the restraining order and claimed that there was “an official policy or custom of failing to respond properly to complaints of restraining order violations.”
  • The Trial Court dismissed the claim. Jessica appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed. Castle Rock appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that Jessica had a procedural due process claim, although no substantive due process claim.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court and found no constitutional violation.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Colorado law did not make enforcement of restraining orders mandatory.
    • The Court found that even if it were mandatory, enforcement could not be considered a protected entitlement.
      • Basically, the restraining order doesn’t entitle a person to any specific action, it just provides grounds for arresting the subject of the order.
      • You could argue that the State may have established a duty to care by getting involved and issuing the restraining order, but that is a tort law issue, not a constitutionally-guaranteed right.
    • The Court found that even if there were a protected individual entitlement, a restraining order has no monetary value and therefore did not count as property (and hence no property interest).
  • In a concurrence, it was noted that enforcement of a restraining order is a process, not the interest protected by the process, and that there is not due process protection for processes.