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Paul v. Davis

Citation. 424 U.S. 693, 96 S. Ct. 1155, 47 L. Ed. 2d 405, 1976 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Petitioner, Paul (Petitioner), as the police chief, issued a bulletin to area storeowners warning of persons known to be shoplifters. The Respondent, Davis (Respondent), was on that list. He claims his reputation was injured by this action.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Reputation alone, apart from some more tangible interests such as employment is neither liberty nor property for Due Process purposes.


The Petitioner is the police chief in Louisville, Kentucky. In order to alert local merchants of potential shoplifters, he sent a memo containing the mug shots of those who had charges brought against them. The Respondent was on page 2 of the memo. He had been arraigned on the charge and pleaded not guilty. At the time the memo was published, Respondent’s charge was not resolved, but the charge was later dismissed.


Did the Petitioner deprive the Respondent of his liberties by designating him as an “active shoplifter”?


No. Kentucky law does not extend to the Respondent any legal guarantee or present enjoyment of reputation which has been altered as a result of the Petitioner’s actions. The Respondent was not deprived of any liberty or property interests protected by the Due Process Clause.


This decision allows law enforcement to run unchecked and accuse anyone without repercussion. Thus, the individual is unfairly prejudiced before a trial is had based on public opinion that has been tainted by the police.


The posting of a mug shot in some stores does not deprive the Petitioner of any liberties. He is still free to go to those stores and shop. Also, the memo is not an official criminal record that would fall into the hands of future employers. So, the potential damage to his reputation is minimal.

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