Supreme Court Justices were skeptical yesterday about a Colorado woman’s claim that police can be sued for failing to enforce a protective order designed to shield her and her children from her estranged husband. Jessica Gonzales said police did nothing to prevent her ex-husband from killing their three daughters.
Justice Stephen Breyer said he feared that a ruling for Gonzales would open the door to numerous lawsuits against the police and other government agencies for failing to do their duty. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said she too was worried. “This is such a new requirement you are seeking. It would be a major step,” O’Connor said. Others pointed out that the police usually had wide discretion to decide which cases to pursue. “This is very much at odds with the normal discretion” given the police, Justice David Souter said. “What happened here is undeniably tragic,” said law professor John Eastman, an attorney representing the city being sued–Castle Rock–but a protective order does not create a constitutional entitlement to a speedy response from the police.