Monday, September 2, 2013


Due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all of the legal rights that are owed to a person. Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects the individual person from it. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due-process violation, which offends against the rule of law.

Due process has also been frequently interpreted as limiting laws and legal proceedings (see substantive due process), so that judges - instead of legislators - may define and guarantee fundamental fairness, justice, and liberty. This interpretation has proven controversial, and is analogous to the concepts of natural justice, and procedural justice used in various other jurisdictions. This interpretation of due process is sometimes expressed as a command that the government must not be unfair to the people or abuse them physically.

Due process is not used in contemporary English law, though two similar concepts are natural justice (which generally applies only to decisions of administrative agencies and some types of private bodies like trade unions) and the British constitutional concept of the rule of law as articulated by A. V. Dicey and others. However, neither concept lines up perfectly with the American theory of due process, which, as explained below, presently contains many implied rights not found in the ancient or modern concepts of due process in England.

Due process developed from clause 39 of the Magna Carta in England. When English and American law gradually diverged, due process was not upheld in England, but did become incorporated in the Constitution of the United States.

By jurisdiction


Magna Carta

In clause 39 of the Magna Carta, John of England promised as follows: "No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land." Magna Carta itself immediately became part of the "law of the land", and Clause 61 of that charter authorized an elected body of twenty-five barons to determine by majority vote what redress the King must provide when the King offends "in any respect against any man." Thus, Magna Carta established the rule of law in England by not only requiring the monarchy to obey the law of the land, but also limiting how the monarchy could change the law of the land. It should be noted, however, that in the thirteenth century these provisions may have been referring only to the rights of landowners, and not to ordinary peasantry or villagers.

Shorter versions of Magna Carta were subsequently issued by British monarchs, and Clause 39 of Magna Carta was renumbered "29." The phrase due process of law first appeared in a statutory rendition of Magna Carta in A.D. 1354 during the reign of Edward III of England, as follows: "No man of what state or condition he be, shall be put out of his lands or tenements nor taken, nor disinherited, nor put to death, without he be brought to answer by due process of law."

In 1608, the English jurist Edward Coke wrote a treatise in which he discussed the meaning of Magna Carta. Coke explained that no man shall be deprived but by legem terrae, the law of the land, "that is, by the common law, statute law, or custom of England.... (that is, to speak it once and for all) by the due course, and process of law.."

Both the clause in Magna Carta and the later statute of 1354 were again explained in 1704 (during the reign of Queen Anne) by the Queen's Bench, in the case of Regina v. Paty. In that case, the House of Commons had deprived John Paty and certain other citizens of the right to vote in an election, and had committed them to Newgate Prison merely for the offense of pursuing a legal action in the courts. The Queen's Bench, in an opinion by Justice Powys, 

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