The Constitution is a spare document. If created in our modern era, it would only take up approximately 15 pages of text. One very powerful principle underlies the document's solemn aspirations to establish justice and to secure the blessings of liberty. That principle is called due process.
Specifically, the Fifth Amendment mandates that the federal government not deprive anyone of "life, liberty or property without due process of law" and the 14th Amendment requires the same of state governments. Specific procedural due process rights are enumerated in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments.
The guarantees of due process that America's legal system is based upon were first enshrined in document form in the 13th Century in Clauses 39 and 40 of Magna Carta:
Clause 39: No persons shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of their rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of their standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against them, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of their equals or by the law of the land.
Clause 40: To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay, right or justice.
These promises are what our unique American criminal legal system is based upon. It was an idea that deeply occupied the minds of our Founding Generation—who wrote into our country’s original DNA that we must protect the people—our people—from government overreach and potential abuse. We acknowledge that our Founders were morally flawed men whose views on who constituted the people excluded those who should never have been excluded. But we still credit them for the beautiful and worthy idea that initially built America’s legal framework. They envisioned a country where the oppressed would find freedom. Many of them were themselves, abused by their governments and they drafted our Constitution seeking to prevent such abuses.--a document that today protects us all.
The promises of due process first expressed in Magna Carta are as relevant today as they ever were--particularly in America's criminal legal system. That's why the name of this organization carries the name of one of these original guarantees.
Clause 40 Foundation is a tax exempt nonprofit 501(c)(3) nonpartisan organization whose mission is to honor, preserve, and promote the due process rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution through public education, events, research, litigation, and more.
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