Procedural Due Process: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

By Rhonda Wasserman | Go to book overview

5
Due Process Limitations on the
Binding Effect of Judgments

"It is a violation of due process for a judgment to be binding on a litigant who was
not a party or a privy and therefore has never had an opportunity to be heard."1

Even before the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, the United States Supreme Court held that a person cannot be bound by a judgment unless she is served with process or voluntarily defends the action (D'Arcy v. Ketchum, 1851). In its most famous statement of this principle, the Supreme Court in Hansberry v. Lee (1940) declared:

It is a principle of general application in Anglo-American jurisprudence that one is not
bound by a judgment in personam in a litigation in which he is not designated as a party or
to which he has not been made a party by service of process. A judgment rendered in such
circumstances is not entitled to … full faith and credit…; and judicial action enforcing it
against the person or property of the absent party is not that due process which the Fifth
and Fourteenth Amendments require.

The Court has noted a direct connection between this due process protection and the opportunity to be heard:

The opportunity to be heard is an essential requisite of due process of law in judicial pro-
ceedings. And as a State may not, consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment, enforce a
judgment against a party named in the proceedings without a hearing or an opportunity to
be heard, so it cannot, without disregarding the requirement of due process, give a conclu-
sive effect to a prior judgment against one who is neither a party nor in privity with a party
therein (Richards v. Jefferson County, 1996).

In neither case would it be fair to bind a person by a judgment unless she (or someone looking out for her interests) had an opportunity to be heard.2 Put differently, the Constitution protects each person's own day in court.3

-163-

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Procedural Due Process: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Foreword xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1: The History of Due Process 1
  • 2: Preliminaries 21
  • 3: Notice and the Opportunity to Be Heard 63
  • 4: The Form and Extent of Notice 129
  • 5: Due Process Limitations on the Binding Effect of Judgments 163
  • 6: Due Process Limitations on Personal Jurisdiction 207
  • 7: Due Process Limitations on Choice of Law 263
  • Bibliographical Essay 289
  • Table of Cases 325
  • Index 351
  • About the Author 379
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