Freedom and the Court: Civil Rights and Liberties in the United States

By Henry J. Abraham | Go to book overview

IV
The Fascinating World of "Due Process of Law"

THE CONCEPT "due process of law" has been an integral part of much of what we have been discussing. It is both subordinate and coordinate to any consideration of "values and lines" in the realm of civil rights and liberties. No concept is mentioned more frequently in our judicio-legal process than "due process of law," for either its presence or its absence; its banner is now raised in more appellate cases at the level of the United States Supreme Court than any other. Its terminology, if not its meaning, is found in Amendments V and XIV of the Constitution. Both amendments issue clarion calls to national and state governments alike for the presence and maintenance of "due process of law." In the words of Article V, ratified on December 15, 1791: "No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law....";1 and in the words of Article XIV, ratified on July 23, 1868: "No State shall... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...."2 Towering disagreements have plagued our polity as to the meaning of the command and will undoubtedly continue to do so. "Line drawing" is complicated by the problem of that meaning -- as our analysis of the question of the incorporation of the Bill of Rights has demonstrated. Yet basic guidelines do exist, and, no matter how vexatious and hazardous the task at hand may well be, they enable us to come to grips with the meaning of "due process of law."

____________________
1
Italics supplied.
2
Italics supplied.

-79-

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