Fifth Amendment – Right to Due Process

The right of due process has grown in two directions: It affords individuals a right to a fair process (known as procedural due process) and a right to enjoy certain fundamental liberties without governmental interference (known as substantive due process). The Fifth Amendment’s due process clause applies to the federal government’s conduct. In 1868 the adoption of the 14th Amendment expanded the right of due process to include limits on the actions of state governments.

1791Fifth Amendment Ratified

The Bill of Rights, including the Fifth Amendment, is ratified. The amendment contains several clauses that provide protection against governmental abuse of criminal law. Another clause says that no one “shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The amendment protects individuals by limiting government’s power of eminent domain under which it can confiscate private property.

1856Seizure Of Property Without Full Hearing Allowed

The federal government seizes property from a man who owes it money. He argues that the lack of a hearing violates his Fifth Amendment right to due process. The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land and Improvement Co. that different processes may be legitimate in different circumstances.

To determine the constitutionality of a procedure, the Court looks at whether it violates specific safeguards in the Constitution and whether similar types of proceedings had been used historically, particularly in England. In this case, because a summary method for the recovery of debts had been used in England, the procedure is constitutional in the U.S.

1857‘Dred Scott’ Ruling Says Slaves Are Property, Not Citizens

The U.S. Supreme Court decides the landmark Dred Scott v. Sandford case. Born a slave, Scott had lived with his owner in the slave state of Missouri. After his first owner died, he moved with his new one to the free state of Illinois and later to the free territory of Wisconsin. Several years later, after his second owner died, he returned to Missouri. In 1847, he sued for his freedom, pointing to the years he lived in free territories. Ten years later, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that slaves are property and have no right to sue. The Court says that people of African ancestry can never become U.S. citizens. It also invalidates the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which restricted slavery in certain territories. The Court further explains that slave owners cannot be deprived of their property (slaves) because citizens cannot be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process of law,” as established by the Fifth Amendment.

19167th Amendment Not Applicable To State Court Trials

In Minneapolis and St. Louis R. Co. v. Bombolis, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial in civil cases does not apply to civil trials in state courts. In reaching its decision, the Court looks to the due process clause of the 14th Amendment (the vehicle for applying the Bill of Rights to the states) and concludes that a jury trial in a civil case is not a fundamental due process right.

1922Hearing Required Before Deportation

In Ng Fung Ho v. White, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fifth Amendment due process clause requires the government to hold a hearing before deporting a U.S. resident who claims to be a citizen, arguing that otherwise the person is deprived of liberty, and possibly in danger of losing property and life.

1943Restrictions On Japanese Americans Upheld

In Hirabayashi v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court says a federal law passed after Pearl Harbor that requires Japanese Americans to live in restricted areas and obey curfews does not violate their Fifth Amendment right to due process. The case revolves around the conviction of Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, a Japanese American college student, who had refused to register for relocation and had violated a curfew. The Court does not address the relocation issue and instead focuses on the curfew, which it deems a necessary “protective measure.”

1944Price-Control Law In Wartime Upheld

In Yakus v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the Emergency Price Control Act, which Congress passed during World War II to battle inflation. The law established an Office of Price Administration, which had the power to limit the prices of certain goods. A seller could challenge a price as too low within 60 days of its determination and could appeal any adverse ruling to an emergency Court of Appeals. The Court rules that this procedure meets the Fifth Amendment’s due process standard because the 60-day challenge period and the appeals procedure provide safeguards against unfair decisions.

1948Secret Trials Violate Due Process Right

In In re Oliver, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the conviction of a Michigan man who was convicted and sentenced during a secret grand jury hearing before a single judge. The hearing had occurred under a Michigan law allowing a single judge to hold secret grand jury proceedings. The Court does not rule on the law because it was not challenged by the defendant. Grand jury proceedings, held to decide whether to issue an indictment (confirming enough evidence exists to take a case to full trial), traditionally are conducted in private. In this case, the one-man grand jury went further when the judge also decided the defendant’s guilt and sentenced him to jail.

1954Denial Of Counsel Is Ruled Unconstitutional

In Chandler v. Fretag, the defendant said he did not want an attorney when he appeared in court to plead guilty to a charge of breaking and entering. At that time, he was told for the first time that he faced a sentence of life in prison because of his criminal record. He requested a delay so he could consult a lawyer on the habitual criminal charge, but his request was denied. The U.S. Supreme Court reverses the denial, saying that it violated the defendant’s due process rights under the 14th Amendment.

1958Court Protects ‘Free Association’ In NAACP Case

In NAACP v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that when Alabama state officials demanded that the NAACP hand over its membership list, the members’ right of “free association” was violated. Although no such right is specifically included in the First Amendment, the Court says it is a necessary extension of the rights to free speech and free assembly: “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.”

1959Ability To Practice Chosen Profession Cannot Be Taken Away Without Due Process

In Greene v. McElroy, the U.S. Supreme Court looks at whether the due process clause was violated when the federal government took away an aeronautical engineer’s security clearance without a hearing. The clearance was taken away because of suspicions that the engineer’s ex-wife had been associated with members of the Communist Party. Although employed by a private company, the engineer worked on projects for the federal government and had access to classified information. The zvourt says that because loss of his clearance deprives the engineer of his right to practice his chosen profession, the due process clause requires a full hearing where the engineer could confront and cross-examine witnesses against him.

1961Government Employment Can Be Denied Without Hearing

In Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers Union v. McElroy, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a military commander did not violate the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause when he decided, without a hearing, to indefinitely ban a cafeteria worker from entering the government building where she worked. The commander’s decision was based on his conclusion that the cook did not meet security requirements.

Despite the similarity to Greene v. McElroy, 1959, the Court says here that the military commander was acting within the wide authority given to him by Congress to ensure the safety of government buildings. The private employer in Greene had no such mandate, the Court says, and therefore could not take away an employee’s ability to practice his chosen profession without a due process hearing.

1966Due Process Rights For Juvenile Offenders Upheld

In Kent v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that juvenile offenders are entitled to a full hearing before their criminal case can be transferred from the juvenile justice system to the adult justice system. In so doing, the Court recognizes that juveniles accused of a crime need as many procedural protections in the justice system as adults do. The Court reaffirms this idea two years later, in another case involving the due process rights of a juvenile facing a sentence in a detention facility.

1967Court Holds Juveniles Entitled To Due Process

The U.S. Supreme Court decides In re Gault, holding that juveniles possess the standard constitutional guarantees of due process. Previously, the juvenile justice system withheld constitutional protections routinely afforded adults. The Court finds that juvenile proceedings must be in line with the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.

1975Exclusion Of Noncitizens From Federal Jobs Struck Down

In Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a Civil Service Commission rule that barred noncitizens, including resident aliens (foreigners who live here), from holding civil service jobs violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. Although recognizing that national interests may justify a citizenship requirement for certain jobs, the Court finds that the Civil Service Commission does not have the authority to deprive an entire class of individuals – resident aliens – from making a living. The Court relies in part on earlier decisions that found that state rules depriving resident aliens from working for state government violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

1975‘Duration Of Relationship’ Rule Held Constitutional

After her husband of less than six months died, a woman sought Social Security insurance benefits for herself and her daughter by a previous marriage. The Social Security Administration denied the request on the basis of a duration-of-relationship requirement in the law, which required that a “widow” and “child” have a relationship with the wage earner for more than nine months before his death. They sued, claiming that the rule violated their rights under the Fifth Amendment. In Weinberger v. Salfi, the U.S. Supreme Court finds that the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment are applicable to the federal government here through the Fifth Amendment, but that social welfare legislation like this is constitutional if Congress acted rationally and there was no arbitrary or invidious discrimination. Here, the duration-of-relationship rule made sense to avoid potentially fraudulent claims.

1976Court Hearing Not Required Before Cutting Off Disability Benefits

George Eldridge, who had been deemed disabled because of chronic anxiety and back strain, was informed by the Social Security Administration that his benefits would end. Although Social Security procedures provided for a hearing before a final determination, Eldridge’s benefits were cut off before the hearing. He sued, and in Mathews v. Eldridge, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the termination of benefits before a hearing does not violate the Fifth Amendment. The Court notes that due process is “flexible” and calls for “such procedural protections as the particular situation demands.” The court finds there are numerous safeguards to prevent errors in making decisions to terminate disability benefits and argued that “at some point the benefit or an additional safeguard to the individual affected by the administrative action and to society, in terms of increased assurance that the action is just, may be outweighed by the cost.”

1976Court: Social Security Can Treat Divorced Women Differently

In Mathews v. De Castro, the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the Social Security Act, which gives benefits to married women with dependent children when their husbands retire or are disabled but denies the same benefits to divorced women, violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. Recognizing that the Fifth Amendment right of due process includes rights to equal protection, the Court says that the Social Security Act’s differing treatment of married and divorced women is constitutional because Congress acted rationally. Specifically, the Court finds that the distinction between married and divorced women is consistent with the law’s primary goal of providing workers and their families with basic protection against hardships due to illness or old age and that Congress did not act irrationally when it decided to defer monthly payments to divorced wives of retired or disabled wage earners until they reach the age of 62 because the law reflected that divorced couples typically live separate lives.

1980Windfall Benefits For Only Certain Rail Workers Are Upheld

In U.S. Railroad Retirement Board v. Fritz, the U.S. Supreme Court considers changes in the federal retirement benefits program for railroad employees. Before the changes, railroad employees who worked for a certain number of years were qualified to receive retirement benefits, even if their years of service outside the railroad industry also qualified them to receive Social Security. Congress decided that it was too expensive for the government to pay the workers under both programs, so the 1974 Railroad Retirement Act barred dual payments to some future retirees. The Court rules that Congress’ decision to award the benefits to some workers but not to others is a rational way of phasing out the benefits and, consequently, is not a violation of due process.

1980Cutoff Of Benefits To Nursing Home Is Upheld

In O’Bannon v. Town Court Nursing Center, residents sued after the federal government ruled that their nursing home was no longer eligible to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments. The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the residents do not have a “life, liberty, or property” interest in their nursing home’s receipt of Medicare and Medicaid payments. Although some residents may have to leave because they cannot afford to pay full-price rates, the Court finds there is no constitutional right to live in the nursing home of one’s choice. The Court notes that the hardship that the residents face is an indirect result of the government’s legitimate actions against the nursing home.

1981Court Says Draft Registration May Exempt Women

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Military Selective Service Act, requiring that men ages 18 through 25 register for the draft. In Rostker v. Goldberg, the Court rejects the argument that exempting women from the act violates the right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. The Court says the exemption is not the “accidental byproduct of a traditional way of thinking about women.” Women, it holds, are not “similarly situated” for the purposes of draft registration because they are barred from combat roles. The Court says the problems that would be created by drafting women for noncombat roles were sufficient to justify their exemption.

1993Notice And Hearing Required Before Home Is Seized

The U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. James Daniel Good Real Property rules that a property owner is entitled to notice and a full hearing before his home and surrounding land can be seized. The Court says that a person’s interest in keeping his home – as opposed to other kinds of property, such as a car or a boat – is an extremely important one, and unless emergency circumstances suggest that the property owner might destroy evidence or that some other immediate harm might result, the due process clause requires the government to take every procedural precaution.

2004Citizen ‘Enemy Combatants’ Have Right To Due Process

Petitioner Yaser Hamdi, a U.S. citizen whom the government has classified as an “enemy combatant” for allegedly fighting with the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan, is detained in a Navy brig. Hamdi’s father files a habeas petition on his behalf, arguing that his son is being held in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The U.S. Supreme Court says that although Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged in this case, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be allowed to contest the detention before a neutral party. The Court rejects the Bush administration’s contention that the executive branch has the last word on open-ended detentions for citizens and noncitizens.

2004Federal Courts Can Hear Foreign Detainees’ Appeals

In Rasul v. Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by foreign detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who contend they are being unlawfully held. The Court finds that the terms of the lease on the naval base give the United States a degree of control that makes the property the functional equivalent of U.S. territory.

2006Ariz. Law Limiting Insanity Plea Does Not Deny Due Process

Eric Michael Clark, a paranoid schizophrenic, was charged with murder after he shot and killed an Arizona police officer. At his trial, Clark tried to use expert testimony to prove that he was insane and that his illness prevented him from forming the intent to shoot an officer. The judge allowed the expert testimony only on his insanity claim. The court then decided Clark had not proved his insanity defense. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In Clark v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Arizona’s law that does not allow the defendant to argue his illness prevents him from forming criminal intent. The Court says Clark still received due process.

2006Basic Trial Protections Apply To Detainees

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that military tribunals set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are flawed because they were not expressly authorized by Congress and do not incorporate basic trial protections. The Court says a key clause of the Geneva Conventions applies to the detainees and is enforceable in federal court for their protection. The provision prohibits mistreatment of detainees and trials except by “a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.”

2008Court: Detainees May Challenge Detention

In Boumediene v. Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, decides that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have the constitutional right to challenge their detention as enemy combatants in federal court. The Court rejects a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that strips federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees.

2009Obama To Keep Military Tribunals For Detainees

President Barack Obama says he plans to keep the military commission system, which was created by the Bush administration, to prosecute some terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The federal courts also will be used to prosecute some detainees. The administration says changes will be made to the system to expand the legal rights of the accused. The military commission system was authorized in a 2006 law aimed at prosecuting terror suspects as enemy combatants.