The requirement that the government function in accordance with law is, in itself, ample basis for understanding the stress given these words. A commitment to legality is at the heart of all advanced legal systems, and the Due Process Clause is often thought to embody that commitment.
The clause also promises that before depriving a citizen of life, liberty or property, the government must follow fair procedures. Thus, it is not always enough for the government just to act in accordance with whatever law there may happen to be. Citizens may also be entitled to have the government observe or offer fair procedures, whether or not those procedures have been provided for in the law on the basis of which it is acting. Action denying the process that is “due” would be unconstitutional.
The words “due process” suggest a concern with procedure rather than substance, and that is how many—such as Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote “the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause is not a secret repository of substantive guarantees against unfairness”
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to 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.
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