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Due Process

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The administration of justice in accordance with established rules and principles. This cardinal principle of limited government of great antiquity is embedded in clause 39 of Magna Carta (1215). ‘No free man shall be taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed, …except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.’ Subsequently this right was extended to all subjects and ‘law of the land’ became synonymous with ‘due process of law’. It is this terminology that appears in key amendments to the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment (1791), one of those that comprise the so‐called Bill of Rights, was designed to ensure that the federal government did not deprive citizens of their ‘life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’. Identical wording is to be found in the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) which provides Americans with similar protection against the governments of the states. This clause has played a dramatic part in the judicial activism of the Supreme Court since the 1950s, notably in civil rights cases.

David Mervin


Subjects: Law

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