1. Civil Rights
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject o the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Section 1 of the Amendment 14 to the Constitution of United States of America.
a. Purpose of this Amendment
This amendment was proposed on June 13, 1866 and ratified on July 9, 1868; the principle purpose of this amendment was to make former slaves citizens of both the United States and the state in which they lived. The amendment also forbids the States to deny equal rights to any person. The terms of the amendment clarify how citizenship is acquired. State citizenship is a byproduct of national citizenship is acquired state citizenship is a byproduct of national citizenship. By living in a state, every U.S citizen automatically becomes a citizen of that state as well. All persons naturalized (granted citizenship) according to law are U.S citizens.
b. Importance of the fourteenth Amendment
The fourteenth amendment commands that no person shall be denied equal protection of the law by any state. This clause introduced a new concept into constitutional analysis as an independent constitutional guarantee. In recent years the equal protection guarantee has become the single most important concept in the constitution for the protection of individual rights.
The equal protection clause also protects access to the ballot and voting power. Except where the constitution provides otherwise, as with respect to apportionment of presidential electors and senators among the states, the equal protection clause prohibits most electoral schemes that give one person’s vote more weight than another.
The requirement of equal population districts also covers all local government units that exercise legislative functions, such as county commission.
2. Judicial Definition of “Life Liberty or Property.”
Since 1972 a majority of the justice has chosen to take quite literally, and restrictively, the concept that due process applies only to “life, liberty or property.” In recent years the decision have narrowly construed these terms so that the government may take some actions adversely affecting people without having to give them any procedure to insure a fair treatment of their interests. Thus, the court has allowed the government to injure someone’s reputation or terminate his employment without a hearing since a majority of the justice did not find “liberty” or “property” present in the facts of those individual cases.
When on life, liberty or property interest is a stake, a state is free to deny privileges to individuals without any hearing and, therefore, on an arbitrary basis.
3. Freedom of action
Liberty in its most general sense includes the ability of individuals to engage in freedom of action within a society and free choice as regards their personal lives. Not every limitation of individual freedom constitutes a violation of “liberty” in a constitutional sense or requires that the government grant the individual a hearing. When the government acts so as to regulate an area of human activity for all people, the law will be tested under the substantive restrictions of the due process clause and the specific protections of the constitution. But unless some specific fundamental constitutional right is involved the government will be able to regulate most areas of human activity. Son long as the government does not classify person in such a way as to violate the equal protection clauses, it may also regulate certain classifications of persons.
In one sense all property is a creature of the state because each government is free to define or limit property rights. However, the ability of either the state or federal governments to limit rights in property is subject to constitutional limitations.
5. Deprivations of Government Benefits
The termination of government benefits could be deemed a cognizable interest under the due process clauses.
The court required that the welfare beneficiary be granted a hearing which included
i. Adequate notice;
ii. An opportunity for oral argument to the adjudicator;
iii. A chance to present evidence in his behalf;
iv. An opportunity to confront any witnesses who are adverse to his claim;
v. An opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses;
vi. Disclosure of all evidence against him;
vii. A right to have an attorney present his case;
viii. A decision based solely on the evidence produced at the hearing;
ix. That the decision maker state the reasons for this determination and the evidence he relief on and
x. That the decision maker in fact be unbiased and impartial.