Due Process and the Significance of Interpretation Term Paper

Download this Term Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Term Paper:

Due Process and the Significance of Interpretation

The concept of "Due Process" is a uniquely American one, the significance of which has changed as much as has the societal and political times of the American nation. Today, some critics argue that Due Process is a thing of the past, what with the passing and signing into law of the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes the military to arrest and detain indefinitely civilians suspected of being terrorists. Nonetheless, it is not the lawmakers who have traditionally defined Due Process but the courts. This paper will discuss the meaning, history and importance of the constitutional concept of "Due Process" as contained in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. It will also include a brief discussion of the conflicting positions of Justice Hugo Black and Justice Felix Frankfurter with respect to the incorporation of rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and how these positions helped develop the concept of Due Process.

Background: The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments

The Fifth Amendment as stated in the United States Constitution essentially guaranteed due process of the law in all federal courts: "No person shall be held…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" (U.S. Const. Amend. V). The Fourteenth Amendment, as interpreted by Earl Warren of the Supreme Court nearly a century after the Amendment's ratification, basically asserted that due process applied to state courts as well as to federal courts, an application that revolutionized the way the criminal justice system operated on state and local levels.

If the original Bill of Rights was meant to protect citizens from the tyranny of a central government, the Fourteenth Amendment addressed the citizen's relationship to State power as well: "No State shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process" (U.S. Const. Amend. XIV). Intended to deal with the issue of citizenship in the South in the wake of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment became filled with implications later on in the American judicial system -- at least in the eyes of the courts.

Black and Frankfurter: Two Opposing Interpretations

As social systems have changed, so too have the ways in which in the law of the United States can be interpreted. The tension between objectivity and subjectivity in philosophy (a tension equal to the gulf between the old, medieval world of scholastic thought and the new, modern world of skepticism, doubt and Hegelian dialectic) altered not only society's perception of universals, truths and transcendentals but also judges' perception of the law. The letter of the law and the spirit of the law could be called into question as easily as one could create a "reasonable" doubt as to their intent and meaning. For judges like Justice Hugo Black, the Due Process Clause had a precise and objective meaning, as he wrote in the Supreme Court Decision In re Winship, 397, U.S. 358 (1970), yet that "precise" and "objective" meaning depended, of course, on the perspective of the Justice doing the defining. For Black it was clear: "[T]he only correct meaning of that phrase is that our Government must proceed according to the 'law of the land' -- that is, according to written constitutional and statutory provisions as interpreted by court decisions" (Ely, 1980, p. 190). Due Process on the state-level was non-negotiable: the "law of the land" as interpreted by the courts said so.

Yet, as John Hart Ely observes, for all of Justice Black's emphasis on the Constitution, "the propriety of equating this 'law of the land' concept with due process is far from clear" (p. 190). Perhaps for this reason, Justice Felix Frankfurter refused to apply the Fourteenth Amendment to the State Powers. An advocate of judicial restraint, Justice Frankfurter noted in Irvin v. Dowd that "the federal judiciary has no power to sit in judgment upon a determination of a state court" (Eisler, 1993, p. 161). This view contradicted that of Justice Black and of one of Black's supporters, Justice William J. Brennan. While it had been clear to Brennan that the Fifth Amendment had no relation to States' rights, Brennan followed Black in asserting that the Fourteenth Amendment dealt specifically with States by asserting the authority of federal law over the States. Brennan believed that the Fourteenth Amendment "provided the mechanism" through which the Bill of Rights could be applied to the States, including the concept of Due Process (Eisler, 1993, p. 167).

The Warren Court

Baker v. Carr was an important case that gave the Justices of the Supreme Court an opportunity to define the Fourteenth Amendment's relation to the States: "Earl Warren himself would often call it the most interesting and significant case of his tenure" (Eisler, 1993, p. 168). In Colegrove v. Grove, Justice Frankfurter had asserted that the Supreme Court should not interfere in the judgments and processes of state courts. In other words, Frankfurter did not view the Fourteenth Amendment as an amendment that could allow the federal court to say how due process should be effected on state levels. Frankfurter called it a "political thicket" that should best be avoided (Eisler, 1993, p. 169).

But Baker v. Carr opened the door to the "political thicket" and in fact changed the relationship between state and central courts. Brennan was instrumental in effecting this change: "Within three years of the Baker v. Carr decision…the federal courts would soon order exactly what parameters states had to follow" (Eisler, 1993, p. 177). The application of the Due Process Clause to the States, by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, according to the Earl Warren Court, with Justice Brennan advocating the position of Justice Black, the federal courts delivered a decisive blow to State Power. It was not exactly a question of citizens' rights: it was a question of federal authority over states' rights. The spirit of the Civil War-era Amendment was alive and well in the Warren Court: states were to submit to central power.

Due Process for All (and None for States)

The first significant decision concerning Due Process came in 1855 in Murray's Lessee v. Hoboken, which came ten years prior to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision in this case simply asserted that the Constitution embodied the "law of the land," and covered the rights of all citizens. The Dred Scott decision changed this, however. Then again a few decades later the Hurtado Court re-asserted the Murray interpretation, but did so with vague principles concerning liberty and so on. Each interpretation and re-interpretation was like a power play, in which the balance of power tipped from one end of the spectrum to the next. The judges determined where the basis of power should reside, whether in the states or in the federal government (Hyman, 2005).

In 1940, Cantwell v. Connecticut pushed the concept of Due Process. It applied the First Amendment, regarding the practice of religion, to the States, further diminishing the authority of individual states to determine the appropriate course of due process of the law. According to Cantwell v. Connecticut, federal courts were the lone deciding voice over states. As Tom Woods (2008) notes, while Cantwell indicated that "the First Amendment declares that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Fourteenth Amendment has rendered the legislatures of the states as incompetent as Congress to enact such laws," there remained "no historical demonstration whatsoever of what truly was a radical proposition -- that the Fourteenth Amendment had inverted the American federal system in regard to religion" (p. 105).

In other words, the Supreme Court had shown in Cantwell that it could re-interpret the whole of the relationship between States' rights and Federal power whenever and however it chose. But of course, this tension had always existed in America and it would continue to exist, right up to our current time, even though the issue of due process and states' rights may seem rather distant and insignificant in the face of the much more harrowing reality of a "war on terror." Woods observes that the Supreme Court which issued the Cantwell decision simply refused to acknowledge the rights of states to determine their own due process. Woods also notes that the Supreme Court in 1873 "said that it could not imagine how the amendment's provisions ever could be held to apply to any situation other than that of freed blacks" (Woods, 2008, p. 106). This means that the context of the Fourteenth Amendment (post-Civil War, the end of slavery) had a special significance for that Court. Proceeding Courts determined that the Fourteenth Amendment actually meant more than the Court in 1873 thought it did. By 1905, in fact, in Lochner v. New York, the Due Process Clause was being used to apply the "laissez-faire preferences into the Constitution -- that is, for writing libertarian economics into 'constitutional law'" in an effort to override state economic laws that were at odds…[continue]

Cite This Term Paper:

"Due Process And The Significance Of Interpretation" (2013, March 05) Retrieved December 4, 2016, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/due-process-and-the-significance-of-interpretation-86462

"Due Process And The Significance Of Interpretation" 05 March 2013. Web.4 December. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/due-process-and-the-significance-of-interpretation-86462>

"Due Process And The Significance Of Interpretation", 05 March 2013, Accessed.4 December. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/due-process-and-the-significance-of-interpretation-86462

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Operations Process a Bus Manufacturing Business Project

    operations process a bus manufacturing business project. The aim analyze operation develop methods improvement. Bus manufacturing is quite a slow and tedious process, for most companies, the manufacturing process is divided into two. First, most of the vehicle component are manufactured outside the parent enterprise and are purchased for assembly. Then the second phase of manufacturing, which now takes, place at the enterprise is the assembly part of it. Bus manufacturing

  • Sigmund Freud s the Interpretation of

    As a consequence many have thought that the subconscious is some sort of "mystic" area where all the secrets are hidden. These secret parts have also been considered to have negative connotations. Research done in the area after Freud suggests that the subconscious remains "hidden" not because this is its final and fundamental characteristic, but because the individual does not go through with a powerful process of introspection. The

  • Conflict Our Interpretations Mediation Strategies and Communication...

    CONFLICT Our interpretations, Mediation Strategies and Communication Types The Nature of Conflict -- an introduction What is Conflict? Conflict as Perception Conflict as Feeling Conflict as Actions What causes conflict? Communication Emotions Values Structure Positive Communication Interpersonal Conflict Intrapersonal Conflict Link between Interpersonal Conflicts and Effective Communication Mediation and Dispute Resolution The Nature of Conflict -- An introduction: Conflict is a naturally existing problem in our society and the world as a whole. Conflict exists at all levels and it is so a certain extent quite natural and

  • Dream Interpretation and Metaphysics M Msc

    Given that archetypes appear consistent across dreamers, the impact that culture has on the meaning of archetypes and dreams, and the fact that mourners consistently have the four types of grief dreams, it seems logical that culture would impact the appearance and interpretation of archetypes in dreams. For example, given that, culturally, the mother plays a more central role in the African-American family than the father, it would seem that

  • Truancy Rationale Relevance Significance Organization

    The independent variable will be the positive reinforcement as represented by the incentive program. The study will be examined by examining increases or decreases on the overall attendance rate of students before application of an incentive program and then after the incentive program has been in effect for at least 1/2 of the school year. It is expected increases or decreases in the truancy rates will be due to

  • Army Nco Creed Interpretation History

    Army NCO Creed - Interpretation / History NCO Creed Interpretation and History Fort Bliss, TX The Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer is, to some, just words that must be spoken during ceremonies and at times when new NCOs receive their sergeant stripes. To others, there is no higher thought. These Soldiers dedicate their time while in uniform trying their best to uphold everything written in those three paragraphs. Some choose what those words

  • Government Procurement Process by Which

    The protester then has an opportunity to file written comments on the report. Utilizing Debriefings to Prevent Bid Protests Officially, Post-Award debriefings are meant to provide transparency to the unsuccessful candidates. Although the prescribed requirements of the briefings are very rigid and formal, agencies should resist the temptation to meet the bare minimum required by the formalities. Agencies should pay special attention to Requirement 1, the "evaluation of the significant weak


Read Full Term Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved