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Monday, June 7, 2010

Due Process Clause-Part-II

The requirement of a neutral judge has introduced a constitutional dimension into the question of whether a judge should recuse himself or herself from a case. Specifically, the Supreme Court has ruled that in certain circumstances, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires a judge to recuse himself on account of a potential or actual conflict of interest. For example, on June 8, 2009, in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co. (2009), the Court ruled that a justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia could not participate in a case involving a major donor to his election to that court.

 Substantive due process

 The term "substantive due process" (SDP), is commonly used in two ways:
-first to identify a particular line of cases, and
-second to signify a particular attitude toward judicial review under the Due Process Clause. 
 The term "substantive due process" began to take form in 1930s legal casebooks as a categorical distinction of selected due process cases, and by 1950 had been mentioned twice in Supreme Court opinions. SDP involves liberty-based due process challenges which seek certain outcomes instead of merely contesting procedures and their effects; in such cases, the Supreme Court recognizes a constitutionally-based "liberty" which then renders laws seeking to limit said "liberty" either unenforceable or limited in scope. Critics of SDP decisions typically assert that those liberties ought to be left to the more politically accountable branches of government.

Courts have viewed the Due Process Clause, and sometimes other clauses of the Constitution, as embracing those fundamental rights that are “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Just what those rights are is not always clear, nor is the Supreme Court's authority to enforce such un enumerated rights clear. Some of those rights have long histories or “are deeply rooted” in American society.
The courts have largely abandoned the Lochner era approach (ca. 1897-1937) when substantive due process was used to strike down minimum wage and labor laws in order to protect freedom of contract. Since then, the Supreme Court has decided that numerous other freedoms that do not appear in the plain text of the Constitution are nevertheless protected by the Constitution. If these rights were not protected by the federal courts' doctrine of substantive due process, they could nevertheless be protected in other ways; for example, it is possible that some of these rights could be protected by other provisions of the state or federal constitutions, and alternatively they could be protected by legislatures.

Today, the Court focuses on three types of rights under substantive due process in the Fourteenth Amendment, which originated in United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 (1938), footnote 4. Those three types of rights are:

1.The first eight amendments in the Bill of Rights (e.g. the Eighth Amendment);
2.Restrictions on the political process (e.g. the rights of voting, association, and free speech); and
3.The rights of “discrete and insular minorities.”

The Court usually looks first to see if there is a fundamental right, by examining if the right can be found deeply rooted in American history and traditions. Where the right is not a fundamental right, the court applies a rational basis test: if the violation of the right can be rationally related to a legitimate government purpose, then the law is held valid. If the court establishes that the right being violated is a fundamental right, it applies strict scrutiny. This test inquires into whether there is a compelling state interest being furthered by the violation of the right, and whether the law in question is narrowly tailored to address the state interest.

Privacy, which is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, was at issue in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), wherein the Court held that criminal prohibition of contraceptive devices for married couples violated federal, judicially enforceable privacy rights. The right to contraceptives was found in what the Court called the "penumbras", or shadowy edges, of certain amendments that arguably refer to certain privacy rights. The penumbra-based rationale of Griswold has since been discarded; the Supreme Court now uses the Due Process Clause as a basis for various unenumerated privacy rights. Although it has never been the majority view, some have argued that the Ninth Amendment (addressing unenumerated rights) could be used as a source of fundamental judicially enforceable rights, including a general right to privacy, as discussed by Justice Goldberg concurring in Griswold.


Critics of substantive due process claim that the doctrine began, at the federal level, with the infamous 1857 slavery case of Dred Scott v. Sandford. Advocates of substantive due process acknowledge that the doctrine was employed in Dred Scott, but claim that it was employed incorrectly. Chief Justice Taney was not entirely breaking ground in his Dred Scott opinion when, without elaboration, he pronounced the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional because an "act of Congress that deprived a citizen of his liberty or property merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular territory of the United States, and who had committed no offence against the laws, could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law." Dissenting Justice Curtis disagreed with Taney about what "due process" meant in Dred Scott.
Criticisms of the doctrine continue as in the past. Critics argue that judges are making determinations of policy and morality that properly belong with legislators (i.e. "legislating from the bench"), or argue that judges are reading views into the Constitution that are not really implied by the document, or argue that judges are claiming power to expand the liberty of some people at the expense of other people's liberty (e.g. as in the Dred Scott case), or argue that judges are addressing substance instead of process.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a realist, worried that the Court was overstepping its boundaries, and the following is from one of his last dissents:

I have not yet adequately expressed the more than anxiety that I feel at the ever increasing scope given to the Fourteenth Amendment in cutting down what I believe to be the constitutional rights of the States. As the decisions now stand, I see hardly any limit but the sky to the invalidating of those rights if they happen to strike a majority of this Court as for any reason undesirable. I cannot believe that the Amendment was intended to give us carte blanche to embody our economic or moral beliefs in its prohibitions. Yet I can think of no narrower reason that seems to me to justify the present and the earlier decisions to which I have referred. Of course the words due process of law, if taken in their literal meaning, have no application to this case; and while it is too late to deny that they have been given a much more extended and artificial signification, still we ought to remember the great caution shown by the Constitution in limiting the power of the States, and should be slow to construe the clause in the Fourteenth Amendment as committing to the Court, with no guide but the Court's own discretion, the validity of whatever laws the States may pass.

Originalists, such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who rejects substantive due process doctrine, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who has also questioned the legitimacy of the doctrine, call substantive due process a "judicial usurpation" or an "oxymoron." Both Scalia and Thomas have occasionally joined Court opinions that mention the doctrine, and have in their dissents often argued over how substantive due process should be employed based on Court precedent.
Many non-originalists, like Justice Byron White, have also been critical of substantive due process. As propounded in his dissents in Moore v. East Cleveland and Roe v. Wade, as well as his majority opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick, White argued that the doctrine of substantive due process gives the judiciary too much power over the governance of the nation and takes away such power from the elected branches of government. He argued that the fact that the Court has created new substantive rights in the past should not lead it to "repeat the process at will." In his book Democracy and Distrust, non-originalist John Hart Ely criticized "substantive due process" as a glaring non-sequitur. Ely argued the phrase was a contradiction-in-terms, like the phrase green pastel redness.

Originalism is usually linked to opposition against substantive due process rights, and the reasons for that can be found in the following explanation that was endorsed unanimously by the Supreme Court in a 1985 case: "[W]e must always bear in mind that the substantive content of the [Due Process] Clause is suggested neither by its language nor by pre constitutional history; that content is nothing more than the accumulated product of judicial interpretation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments."

Originalists do not necessarily oppose protection of the rights heretofore protected using substantive due process, and instead most originalists believe that such rights should be identified and protected legislatively, or via further constitutional amendments, or via other existing provisions of the Constitution.
The perceived scope of the Due Process Clause was originally different than it is today. For instance, even though many of the Framers of the Bill of Rights believed that slavery violated the fundamental natural rights of African-Americans, a "theory that declared slavery to be a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.... requires nothing more than a suspension of reason concerning the origin, intent, and past interpretation of the clause."

Levels of scrutiny

When a law or other act of government is challenged as a violation of individual liberty under the Due Process Clause, courts nowadays primarily use two forms of scrutiny, or judicial review. This inquiry balances the importance of the governmental interest being served and the appropriateness of the government's method of implementation against the resulting infringement of individual rights. If the governmental action infringes upon a fundamental right, the highest level of review—strict scrutiny—is used. To pass strict scrutiny review, the law or act must be narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest.

When the governmental restriction restricts liberty in a manner that does not implicate a fundamental right, rational basis review is used. Here a legitimate government interest is enough to pass this review. There is also a middle level of scrutiny, called intermediate scrutiny, but it is primarily used in Equal Protection cases rather than in Due Process cases: “The standards of intermediate scrutiny have yet to make an appearance in a due process case.”

Incorporation of the Bill of Rights into due process

Incorporation is the legal doctrine by which the Bill of Rights, either in full or in part, is applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The basis for incorporation is substantive due process regarding substantive rights enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution, and procedural due process regarding procedural rights enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution.

Incorporation started in 1897 with a takings case continued with Gitlow v. New York (1925), which was a First Amendment case, and accelerated in the 1940s and 1950s. Justice Hugo Black famously favored the jot-for-jot incorporation of the entire Bill of Rights. Justice Felix Frankfurter, however—joined later by Justice John M. Harlan—felt that the federal courts should only apply those sections of the Bill of Rights that were "fundamental to a scheme of ordered liberty." It was the latter course that the Warren Court of the 1960s took, although, almost all of the Bill of Rights has now been incorporated jot-for-jot against the states.

The role of the incorporation doctrine in applying the guarantees of the Bill of Rights to the states is just as notable as the use of due process to define new fundamental rights that are not explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution's text. In both cases, the question has been whether the right asserted is "fundamental", so that, just as not all proposed "new" constitutional rights are afforded judicial recognition, not all provisions of the Bill of Rights have been deemed sufficiently fundamental to warrant enforcement against the states.
Some people, such as Justice Black, have argued that the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment would be a more appropriate textual source for the incorporation doctrine. The Court has not taken that course, and some point to the treatment given to the Privileges or Immunities Clause in the 1873 Slaughter-House Cases as a reason why. Although, the Slaughter-House Court did not expressly preclude application of the Bill of Rights to the states, the Clause largely ceased to be invoked in opinions of the Court following theSlaughter-House Cases, and when incorporation did begin, it was under the rubric of due process. Scholars who share Justice Black's view, such as Akhil Amar, argue that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, like Senator Jacob Howard and Congressman John Bingham, included a Due Process Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment for the following reason: "By incorporating the rights of the Fifth Amendment, the privileges or immunities clause would...have prevented states from depriving 'citizens' of due process. Bingham, Howard, and company wanted to go even further by extending the benefits of state due process to aliens."

The Supreme Court has consistently held that Fifth Amendment due process means substantially the same as Fourteenth Amendment due process and therefore the original meaning of the former is relevant to the incorporation doctrine of the latter. When the Bill of Rights was originally proposed by Congress in 1789 to the states, various substantive and procedural rights were "classed according to their affinity to each other" instead of being submitted to the states "as a single act to be adopted or rejected in the gross," as James Madison put it. Roger Sherman explained in 1789 that each amendment "may be passed upon distinctly by the States, and any one that is adopted by three fourths of the legislatures may become a part of the Constitution." Thus, the states were allowed to reject the Sixth Amendment, for example, while ratifying all of the other amendments including the Due Process Clause; in that case, the rights in the Sixth Amendment would not have been incorporated against the federal government. The doctrine of incorporating the content of other amendments into “due process” was thus an innovation, when it began in 1925 with the Gitlow case, and this doctrine remains controversial today.

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