Due Process Supreme Court Cases

A Due Process Clause appears in both the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These provide that nobody may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Courts have developed two branches of due process doctrine: procedural due process and substantive due process.

First, procedural due process involves the steps that must be taken before someone is deprived of an interest involving life, liberty, or property. These vary depending on the situation but typically include notice and an opportunity to be heard, as well as an unbiased decision-maker. Sometimes procedural due process also may entail a right to present evidence, a right to cross-examine opposing witnesses, and an opportunity to be represented by counsel, among other protections.

Meanwhile, substantive due process involves certain fundamental rights that are deeply rooted in American history and tradition. Notable areas in which this doctrine has arisen include reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and end-of-life decisions. A court usually applies strict scrutiny to government actions that affect fundamental rights, which means that the government must show that its action furthered a compelling interest and was narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Earlier in its history, the Supreme Court reviewed some economic regulations through the lens of substantive due process, but it has largely abandoned this approach.

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

An act of Congress that deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property merely because he came or brought his property into a particular territory of the United States could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law.

Slaughterhouse Cases (1873)

The privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States are those that arise out of the nature and essential character of the national government, the provisions of the Constitution, or federal laws and treaties made in pursuance thereof. (The main holding of this case addressed the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Due Process Clause. However, it is significant for due process doctrine because it made the Due Process Clause the foundation for most Fourteenth Amendment claims involving fundamental rights. This function otherwise might have been served by the Privileges or Immunities Clause.)

Civil Rights Cases (1883)

The Fourteenth Amendment is prohibitory on the states only. The legislation authorized to be adopted by Congress for enforcing it is not direct legislation on the matters respecting which the states are prohibited from making or enforcing certain laws or doing certain acts, but is corrective legislation such as may be necessary or proper for counteracting and redressing the effect of such laws or acts.

Allgeyer v. Louisiana (1897)

In the privilege of pursuing an ordinary calling or trade, and of acquiring, holding, and selling property, must be embraced the right to make all proper contracts in relation to it.

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. Chicago (1897)

A judgment of a state court, even if authorized by statute, whereby private property is taken for public use without compensation made or secured to the owner, is wanting in the due process of law required by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Lochner v. New York (1905)

The general right to make a contract in relation to one’s business is part of the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, and this includes the right to purchase and sell labor, except as controlled by the state in the legitimate exercise of its police power.

Adair v. U.S. (1908)

It is not within the power of Congress to make it a criminal offense against the United States for a carrier engaged in interstate commerce to discharge an employee simply because of their membership in a labor organization. A provision to that effect is an invasion of personal liberty and the right of property and is unenforceable under the Due Process Clause.

Muller v. Oregon (1908)

The regulation of the working hours of women falls within the police power of the state, and a statute directed exclusively to such regulation does not conflict with the Due Process or Equal Protection Clauses.

Moore v. Dempsey (1923)

A trial for murder in a state court in which the accused are hurried to conviction under mob domination without regard for their rights is without due process and void.

Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923)

Legislation fixing hours or conditions of work may properly take into account the physical differences between men and women, but the doctrine that women of mature age require (or may be subjected to) restrictions on their liberty of contract that could not lawfully be imposed on men in similar circumstances must be rejected.

Meyer v. Nebraska (1923)

A state law forbidding the teaching of any modern language other than English to a child who has not successfully passed the eighth grade invades the liberty guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)

The fundamental theory of liberty on which all governments in the U.S. rest excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.

Buck v. Bell (1927)

A state may provide for the sexual sterilization of inmates of institutions supported by the state who are found to be afflicted with a hereditary form of insanity or imbecility.

Powell v. Alabama (1932)

The right of the accused, at least in a capital case, to have the aid of counsel for their defense is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This includes the right to have sufficient time to advise with counsel and prepare a defense.

Nebbia v. New York (1934)

The Due Process Clause conditions the exertion of regulatory power by requiring that the end shall be accomplished by methods consistent with due process, that the regulation shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious, and that the means selected shall have a real and substantial relation to the object sought to be attained.

West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937)

A restraint or regulation of the liberty to contract is due process if it is reasonable in relation to its subject and adopted for the protection of the community against evils menacing the health, safety, morals, and welfare of the people.

U.S. v. Carolene Products Co. (1938)

Regulatory legislation affecting ordinary commercial transactions is not unconstitutional unless it is of such a character as to preclude the assumption that the law rests on a rational basis within the knowledge and experience of the legislature. (Footnote 4 laid the foundation for heightened scrutiny in certain situations involving fundamental rights, the political process, and racial or religious minorities.)

Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co. (1950)

A fundamental requirement of due process in any proceeding that is to be accorded finality is notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections.

Rochin v. California (1952)

Involuntary verbal confessions by a criminal suspect are inadmissible under the Due Process Clause even though statements contained in them may be independently established as true. Coerced confessions offend the community’s sense of fair play and decency.

Williamson v. Lee Optical, Inc. (1955)

The Due Process Clause no longer should be used to strike down state laws regulatory of business and industrial conditions because they may be unwise, improvident, or out of harmony with a particular school of thought.

Flemming v. Nestor (1960)

Particularly when dealing with a withholding of a non-contractual benefit under a social welfare program, the Due Process Clause interposes a bar only if the statute manifests a patently arbitrary classification, utterly lacking rational justification.

Brady v. Maryland (1963)

Suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused who has requested it violates due process when the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

A state law forbidding the use of contraceptives violates the right of marital privacy, which is within the penumbra of specific guarantees of the Bill of Rights.

Loving v. Virginia (1967)

A statutory scheme to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

Goldberg v. Kelly (1970)

A pre-termination evidentiary hearing is necessary to provide a recipient of welfare benefits with procedural due process. The interest of an eligible recipient in the uninterrupted receipt of public assistance, coupled with the state’s interest in not erroneously terminating their payments, clearly outweighs the state’s competing concern to prevent any increase in its fiscal and administrative burdens.

Fuentes v. Shevin (1972)

From the standpoint of due process, it is immaterial that a deprivation of property may be temporary and non-final.

Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth (1972)

The Fourteenth Amendment does not require an opportunity for a hearing prior to the non-renewal of a non-tenured state teacher’s contract unless they can show that the non-renewal deprived them of an interest in liberty, or that they had a property interest in continued employment, despite the lack of tenure or a formal contract.

Roe v. Wade (1973)

The Due Process Clause protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy. Although the state cannot override that right, it has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman’s health and the potentiality of human life, each of which interests grows and reaches a compelling point at various stages of the woman’s approach to term.

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973)

Strict judicial scrutiny is reserved for cases involving laws that operate to the disadvantage of suspect classes or interfere with the exercise of fundamental rights and liberties explicitly or implicitly protected by the Constitution. (Poverty is not a suspect class, and education is not a fundamental right.)

Goss v. Lopez (1975)

Students facing temporary suspension from a public school have property and liberty interests that qualify for protection under the Due Process Clause.

Mathews v. Eldridge (1976)

Identifying the specific dictates of procedural due process generally requires considering three factors: the private interest that will be affected by the official action; the risk of an erroneous deprivation of that interest through the procedures used, and the probable value of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and the government’s interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail.

Ingraham v. Wright (1977)

The Due Process Clause does not require notice and a hearing prior to imposition of corporal punishment in public schools as that practice is authorized and limited by the common law.

Parratt v. Taylor (1981)

A due process violation does not arise from the unauthorized failure of state agents to follow established state procedure.

Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill (1985)

While the legislature may elect not to confer a property interest in public employment, it may not constitutionally authorize the deprivation of such an interest, once conferred, without appropriate procedural safeguards.

Colorado v. Connelly (1986)

Coercive police activity is a necessary predicate to finding that a suspect’s confession is not voluntary within the meaning of the Due Process Clause.

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health (1990)

The Constitution does not forbid a state from requiring that evidence of an incompetent person’s wishes as to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment be proved by clear and convincing evidence.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)

An undue burden exists, and therefore a provision of law is invalid, if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.

Washington v. Glucksberg (1997)

A “right” to assistance in committing suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.

Chicago v. Morales (1999)

Vagueness may invalidate a criminal law if it fails to provide the kind of notice that will enable ordinary people to understand what conduct it prohibits, or if it authorizes or encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Lawrence v. Texas (2003)

The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to choose to enter upon relationships in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons.

Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed outside the state.

Timbs v. Indiana (2019)

The Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment is an incorporated protection applicable to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

Kahler v. Kansas (2020)

Due process does not require a state to adopt an insanity test that turns on a defendant’s ability to recognize that their crime was morally wrong.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022)

The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives. This decision overruled Roe and Casey.