Procedural Due Process

The phrase “procedural due process” refers to the aspects of the Due Process Clause that apply to the procedure of arresting and trying persons who have been accused of crimes and to any other government action that deprives an individual of life, liberty, or property. Procedural due process limits the exercise of power by the state and federal governments by requiring that they follow certain procedures in criminal and civil matters. In cases where an individual has claimed a violation of due process rights, courts must determine whether a citizen is being deprived of “life, liberty, or property,” and what procedural protections are “due” to that individual.

The Bill of Rights contains provisions that are central to procedural due process. These protections give a person a number of rights and freedoms in criminal proceedings, including freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; freedom from Double Jeopardy, or being tried more than once for the same crime; freedom from Self-Incrimination, or testifying against oneself; the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; the right to be told of the crime being charged; the right to cross-examine witnesses; the right to be represented by an attorney; freedom from Cruel and Unusual Punishment; and the right to demand that the state prove any charges Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. In a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases during the twentieth century, all of these rights were applied to state proceedings. In one such case, gideon v. wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S. Ct. 792, 9 L. Ed. 2d 799 (1963), the Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Sixth Amendment right to have an attorney in “all criminal prosecutions,” including prosecutions by a state. The case proved to be a watershed in establishing indigents’ rights to legal counsel.

Procedural due process also protects individuals from government actions in the civil, as opposed to criminal, sphere. These protections have been extended to include not only land and personal property, but also entitlements, including government-provided benefits, licenses, and positions. Thus, for example, the Court has ruled that the federal government must hold hearings before terminating Welfare benefits (Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 90 S. Ct. 1011, 25 L. Ed. 2d 287 [1970]). Court decisions regarding procedural due process have exerted a great deal of influence over government procedures in prisons, schools, Social Security, civil suits, and public employment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Lujan v. G&G Firesprinklers, Inc., 532 U.S. 189, 121 S. Ct. 1446, 149 L. Ed. 2d 391 (2000) held that a state is not required to hold a hearing before withholding money and imposing penalties on a building contractor. The California Division of Labor & Standards Enforcement determined that a building subcontractor had failed to pay the prevailing wage to workers who installed fire sprinklers in state buildings. The California agency, without providing notice or a hearing, fined the general contractor, which in turn withheld money from the subcontractor. The sub-contractor, G&G Firesprinklers, Inc., sued the California agency, claiming that the agency had violated the company’s procedural due process rights. The Court disagreed, holding that because the company could sue the agency for breach of contract, the fine did not constitute a due process violation.

Further readings

Cassel, Douglass W., Jr. 2003. “Detention Without Due Process.” Chicago Daily Law Bulletin 149 (March 13).

Israel, Jerold H. 2001. “Free-Standing Due Process and Criminal Procedure: the Supreme Court’s Search for Interpretive Guidelines.” Saint Louis University Law Journal 45 (spring).

Pennock, J. Roland, and John W. Chapman. 1977. Due Process. New York: New York University Press.

Cross-references

Criminal Procedure; Incorporation Doctrine; Judicial Review; Labor Law; Right to Counsel.

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Powered by Bullraider.com