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Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Castle Rock v. Gonzales

I tripped over this Supreme Court case when I was researching one on a completely different topic, and since one of the parties involved is the town of Castle Rock, I thought I would give it a quick read. I found it extremely interesting, so I decided to do a miniature case summary.

Case: Jessica Gonzales called the police multiple times because her husband had violated a restraining order against him and taken her children. The police did not do anything and the husband murdered the children. Gonzales based her case on the idea that when the restraining order was issued the State of Colorado assumed a certain amount of responsibility to enforce the restraining order through its police power. She held that the lack of action on the part of the police was a violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Decision: The Supreme Court decided that Castle Rock was not in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, since Gonzales did not have a property interest in police enforcement of the restraining order against her husband.

Correct or Incorrect: I struggle with determining whether the court decided correctly. It seems to me that this is the perfect place for the Supreme Court to act in accordance with the protective state, but they did not do so. Obviously, the corrective state is not really at issue here. It seems to me, though, as much as it bothers me, that the court decided correctly.

I think this case proves a good point with regard to the Constitution and the protective state. Even though it is a reasonable to expect the government to protect us from harm, the government can only act within the framework provided for it (or at least should). Since this case was framed by the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court did what it could. I think this illustrates some of the dangers of an over-reliance on government intervention. I also think that it is a clear illustration of the limits of the Constitution. There was definitely a tragedy that could have been prevented by effective use of police power, but the Constitution appears to be silent on the subject. I certainly found the analysis interesting, and I think it illustrated an idea worth a few minutes of thought.

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