Due Process & the Supreme Court

What is Due Process?

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to due process. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment declares that “no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…” In the case of Allgeyer v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court decided in 1897 that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause applied to private contracts as well, allowing such liberties as “freedom of contract” to be upheld without the implementation of various social and economic regulations passed by Federal and State governments. Furthermore, a judge must withdraw himself or herself from a case if there is a conflict of interest.


Prior to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, which included the Due Process Clause, the terms “due process” and “law of the land” were used interchangeably. In 1787, New York became the first state to use the term “due process” in its statutory Bill of Rights. Eventually, New York demanded that due process protections be incorporated to the United Nations Charter.

States Constitution, with the language,

“[N]o Person ought to be taken imprisoned, or be exiled or deprived of his Privileges, Franchises, Life, Liberty or Property but by due process of Law.”

When James Madison studied this plan, he redrafted it to remove some of the words.

Interpretations and Applications of Due Process in the US

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Bill of Rights guaranteed the Federal Government’s acts due process. It wasn’t until the Fourteenth Amendment that the concept was extended to the states themselves. However, these clauses are usually recognized as the same.

In terms of determining whether an action comes within the parameters of due process, the process itself has typically been analyzed under the wording of the Constitution to see whether there are any inconsistencies. These rights are specifically stated in the Constitution and are regarded as enumerated due process rights. Unspecified due process rights are also present in the text, as seen by the Supreme Court.

As previously stated, the Clause has been expanded to include components that set the boundaries within which laws operate. Because of the implicit nature of these readings, the Due Process Clause has been the subject of much controversy.

Notable U.S. Supreme Court Cases Pertaining to Due Process

Though the U.S. Constitution explicitly defines procedural due process, the Supreme Court has applied and established additional substantive due process interpretations. Though the Supreme Court has applied the Due Process Clause to various areas of disagreement within the Court, such as contract freedom and other fundamental rights, including privacy, these interpretations are relatively implicit in nature.

Allgeyer v. Louisiana:

This was a historic Supreme Court case in 1897 that helped to overturn a Louisiana state statute because it was deemed an infringement of a citizen’s “right to contract.” The Supreme Court expanded the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause to encompass liberty as an economic right.

The issue arose from a Louisiana statute that forbade individuals, businesses, and other entities from doing business with “marine insurance companies that have not complied with the law.” The intent of this act was to avoid fraud when dealing with out-of-state marine insurance businesses, and it required such companies to obtain an appointed agent within the State.

The state of Louisiana filed a case in court, alleging that Allgeyer violated the law on three different counts. Allgeyer and his defense team promptly challenged the law, arguing it violated the Fourteenth Amendment by denying Allgeyer due process.

The case went to trial, and Allgeyer was found guilty in Orleans Parish Court. Following an appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the result was reversed, concluding that Allgeyer was certainly guilty of one of the three counts. The defendant eventually took the case to the United States Supreme Court. On the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court unanimously agreed with Allgeyer, and the result was reversed once more.

West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish:

West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish was a US Supreme Court ruling that upheld the need for minimum wage and legislative enforcement. This decision also used substantive due process because it addressed the conflict between “contract liberty” and governmental regulation. The Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s minimum wage regulation was legal because it was necessary for the general health of the state’s residents as well as their capacity to sustain themselves and their families.

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