Liberty, Property, and Privacy: Toward a Jurisprudence of Substantive Due Process

By Edward Keynes | Go to book overview

1
The Core Constitutional Values:
Life, Liberty, and Property

In Ferguson v. Skrupa1 Justice Hugo Black proclaimed that the Supreme Court had abandoned substantive due process as a restriction on legislative power to enact economic regulatory policy. He denied that the "vague contours" of the due process clause authorize courts to set aside legislative policies that judges believe "unwise or incompatible with some particular economic or social philosophy."2Black rejected the view that the due process clauses contain substantive guarantees of life, liberty, and property limiting a legislature's authority to enact legitimate policies to protect the public health, safety, welfare, and morals. Without indicating why he believed the due process clause to be vaguer than other constitutional limitations, Black stated simply that the Court would not "sit as a 'superlegislature to weigh the wisdom of legislation.'"3

____________________
1
372 U.S. 726 ( 1963), 726-27. The statute forbade all but lawyers in the course of their regular practice from making contracts with debtors to collect money periodically and distribute this sum among their creditors.
2
Id., 731-32. Black rejected the natural-right and substantive due process philosophy that had informed the Supreme Court's decisions in such cases as Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 ( 1905), Coppage v. Kansas, 236 U.S. 1 ( 1915), Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 U.S. 525 ( 1923), and Burns Baking Co. v. Bryan, 264 U.S. 504 ( 1924).
3
372 U.S., 731.

-1-

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