The Public Interest

What does due process do?

David L. Kirp & Donald N. Jensen

Fall 1983

Among American social reformers, few instruments are so cherished as an individual’s right to a fair hearing before government takes actions affecting him.  Whether the good or service at stake be access to education, welfare, housing, disability payments, public employment, even a driver’s license, the individual’s interest in “having some say” is routinely recognized. Sometimes it is the courts, relying on the due process clause of the Constitution, that order these case-bycase determinations; indeed, the history of public law during the past decade and a half has been in no small part a history of expanding this procedural protection. But hearings are also required by statute. Scarcely any administrative action taken today may not be contested in a subsequent hearing.

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