United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



Procedural Due Process

Introduction Important Cases
Procedural Due Process, unlike its textual sibling, Substantive Due Process, is fairly self-evident from the words of the Constitution themselves. As stated in the Due Process Clause, “[N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Meaning, if there is some government action (the federal government also being subject to these requirements through the 5th Amendment) seeking to deprive a person of life, liberty or property, then the government is required to afford some minimum amount of procedure to allow the person being deprived to reasonably defend himself or herself.Once there is some life-interest, liberty-interest, or (much more regularly) property-interest at stake, the government must provide the person with both reasonable notice and a reasonable opportunity to be heard. Reasonable notice, often governed by specific court rules, is often the more straightforward of the issues. Obviously, being told in person, far in advance of a trial (what is known as “service of process”) is reasonable. Different courts and public settings have different rules about other methods such as notice by mail or notice by publication in newspapers.Whether a person was afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard, however, is generally less clear. Whether a decision rendered by the government was more or less than the minimum required by the Constitution is usually governed by the factors laid out in Mathews v. Elridge (1976). In Mathews, Procedural Due Process was implicated because a person’s social security benefits (and thus a property-interest) were being taken away. The government had suspended the benefits before a hearing was held. This person could still have challenged the suspension – but only after the benefits had actually been taken away. He wanted a pre-suspension hearing. However, the Court held this request to go beyond what the Constitution minimally requires, laying out several factors that now govern whether more process needs to be given: (1) What is the value of the private interest affected? (2) Is the risk of error in the decision-making process greater if more process is not given? (3) What is the benefit of additional process and safeguards? (4) Is the greater process requested too expensive or too time consuming for the government to have to engage in?

These factors all need to be balanced and considered in the many contexts in which Procedural Due Process arises, such as in administrative agency proceedings, public school and university hearings, public hospital staff firings, prisons, parental custody proceedings, etc.

 Mathews v. Eldridge (1976)Daimler AG v. Bauman
Examples Important Cases
The following examples illustrate some of the issues at play in Procedural Due Process cases.First, it is not always clear whether or not a property interest is at stake, without which, there is no triggering of a Procedural Due Process right. For example, in Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth (1972), an assistant professor at a state university, who only had a one-year contract, was fired without any sort of hearing. The Court, however, held that he was not entitled to a hearing because there was no property interest involved. He would have needed to have more than an abstract desire to possess the property (here, keep his job). He would have needed a legitimate claim of entitlement to the property, and must have he reasonably relied on his ownership not being undermined.A recent, and often controversial issue, is whether in the inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba are being denied a liberty interest by being held without access to the civilian courts. But in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), the Court held that – though the inmates did have a right to challenge their incarceration, the process owed them, considering Mathews (see above), was less than a civilian trial. Today, the process granted to these inmates comes in the form of what are called “Combatant Status Review Tribunals,” or ‘military-tribunals’ as they are more commonly known.Sometimes, other procedurally-related issues arise that are challenged under the Due Process Clause. For example, in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. (2009), the Court held that having a West Virginia State Supreme Court Justice rule on a case – one party of which had donated millions of dollars to his election for justice – was an unconstitutional violation of Procedural Due Process. There was simply too significant of a conflict of interest for the justice not to recuse himself in this particular case. Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth (1972)

Perry v. Sindermann (1972)

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004)

Caperton v. Massey Coal (2009)

Turner v. Rogers (2011)