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Procedural Justice

Justice pursued through due process of law to resolve conflicts between individuals or between individuals and their government. The government administers fair and impartial procedures equally to everyone under its authority in order to settle disputes among them or to prosecute persons charged with crimes against the state.

For example, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that no person shall ‘‘be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.’’ The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments include several guarantees of fair procedures for anyone accused of criminal behavior, including ‘‘the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.’’

When procedural due process prevails, conflicts are settled in an orderly and fair manner in a court of law, according to the rule of law, and not by the arbitrary actions of people in power. This equal justice under the law regulates the interactions among private individuals and between individuals and government. Punishments, such as incarceration in prison, payment of fines, or performance of community service, may be carried out against a wrongdoer. One party harmed by another may receive compensation from the perpetrator of the grievance.

By John Patrick, Understanding Democracy, A Hip Pocket Guide (Oxford University Press)