50 Legal Definition of Due Process

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DUE PROCESS

The idea that laws and legal proceedings must be fair. The Constitution guarantees that the government cannot take away a person's basic rights to 'life, liberty or property, without due process of law.' Courts have issued numerous rulings about what this means in particular cases.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the deprivation of liberty or property without due process of law. A due process claim is cognizable only if there is a recognized liberty or property interest at stake. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 69 (1972).

Under certain circumstances, state prison regulations may create a liberty interest that is protected under the Due Process Clause. Kentucky Dep't of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 461 (1989). To do so, the regulations must (1) contain `substantive predicates' governing an official's decision regarding a matter directly related to the individual; and (2) employ `explicitly mandatory language' specifying the outcome that must be reached upon a finding that the substantive predicates have been met. Id at 462-63.

The Sixth Amendment, which is applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, see In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 273-74 (1948), guarantees a criminal defendant a fundamental right to be clearly informed of the nature and cause of the charges against him. In order to determine whether a defendant has received constitutionally adequate notice, the court looks first to the information. James v. Borg, 24 F.3d 20, 24 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 333 (1994). 'The principal purpose of the information is to provide the defendant with a description of the charges against him in sufficient detail to enable him to prepare his defense.' Id.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the deprivation of liberty or property without due process of law. A due process claim is cognizable only if there is a recognized liberty or property interest at stake. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569 (1972).

It is clear that a court cannot, without violating the Due Process Clause, compel an accused to wear identifiable prison clothing during his trial. Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501 (1976). This is because the practice furthers no essential state interest, and 'the constant reminder of the accused's condition implicit in such distinctive, identifiable attire may affect a juror's judgment' and impair the presumption of innocence, which is 'a basic component of a fair trial under our system of criminal justice.' Id. at 503, 504-05.

Prison clothing cannot be considered inherently prejudicial when the jury already knows, based upon other facts, that the defendant has been deprived of his liberty. See Estelle at 507 (recognizing that '[n]o prejudice can result from seeing that which is already known'); U.S. v. Stewart, 20 F.3d 911, 916 (8th Cir.'94) (holding that when circumstances permit shackling defendant during trial, compelling defendant also to wear prison clothing is not inherently prejudicial because his condition as a prisoner is already apparent to the jury); U.S. ex rel. Stahl v. Henderson, 472 F.2d 556, 556-57 (5th Cir.) (holding that, where defendant was charged with murdering another prisoner while confined in prison, no prejudice resulted from trying him in jail clothes), cert. denied, 411 U.S. 971 (1973).

Due process is best defined in one word--fairness. Throughout the U.S.'s history, its constitutions, statutes and case law have provided standards for fair treatment of citizens by federal, state and local governments. These standards are known as due process. When a person is treated unfairly by the government, including the courts, he is said to have been deprived of or denied due process.

Example: Ezra and Sharon married in New York and had a son, Darwin. They divorced and Sharon moved to California; Darwin stayed with Ezra. Darwin later moved to California to live with Sharon; Sharon sued Ezra for child support in California. Ezra claimed that because he didn't live in California and had never been to California it would be unfair (a denial of due process) for him to defend the child support lawsuit in California. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed, saying that Sharon should bring her child support request in New York. Kulko v. Superior Court, 436 U.S. 84 (1978).

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