Substantive Due Process

Substantive Due Process in the United States

A substantive review focusing on the content of governmental policy and actions. Substantive due process is distinguished from procedural due process, which attends to the means by which policies are executed. Judicial review of the reasonableness of legislative enactments allows the courts to actively intervene in policy judgments more than they could if review were confined to procedural considerations. The use of substantive due process to invalidate economic regulation is illustrated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Lochner v. New York (198 U.S. 45: 1905). Lochner involved an attempt by the State of New York to limit the work week of bakers to 60 hours. The Court held that there is “no reasonable ground for interfering with the liberty of a person or the right of free contract by determining the hours of labor in the occupation of a baker.” The Court made a substantive judgment that the regulation of work hours for bakers was sufficiently unreasonable to constitute a denial of due process of law.

See Also

Due Process of Law (Judicial Function) Procedural Due Process (Judicial Function).

Analysis and Relevance

Use of the substantive due process approach places considerable policy monitoring power in the hands of the courts. In Meyer v. Nebraska (262 U.S. 390: 1923), for example, the Supreme Court struck down a statute prohibiting the teaching of a foreign language to any pre-ninth grade student, public or parochial. The Court ruled that the statute was “arbitrary and without reasonable relation to any end within the competency of the State.” Substantive due process review also occurs when statutes are stricken for reason of vagueness. When the Court voided a city ordinance in Coates v. Cincinnati (402 U.S. 611: 1971), an ordinance that prohibited public annoyance by assemblies of three or more persons standing on public sidewalks, it did so because the ordinance was arbitrary. It conveyed no discernible standards of conduct. Another example of substantive due process is the striking down of state statutes prohibiting abortion. Over the years, guarantees of procedural due process have been invoked by the Supreme Court far more frequently than guarantees relating to substantive due process.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Substantive Due Process from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Substantive Due Process in the United States

Substantive Due Process

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESSTo say that governmental action violates “substantive due process” is to say that the action, while adhering to the forms of law, unjustifiably abridges the Constitution’s fundamental constraints upon the content of what government may do to people in the name of “law.” As
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Substantive Due Process

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS The Supreme Court has long construed the Constitution’s due process clauses to have both procedural and substantive components. procedural due process guarantees against deprivation of life, liberty, or property without notice and an adequate hearing. Substantive
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Substantive Due Process: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Substantive Due Process. This part provides references, in relation to Substantive Due Process, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Substantive Due Process by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Substantive Due Process and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Substantive Due Process or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Substantive Due Process and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Substantive Due Process. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Substantive Due Process should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Substantive Due Process when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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