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Hurtado v. California

Significance

Hurtado v. California is part of a long-standing debate over which rights constitute due process of law and over whether those rights are spelled out in the Constitution or are to be gradually discovered as the Supreme Court hands down various decisions.

The Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868, one of several "Reconstruction" amendments designed to assure that the people who had formerly been slaves had full legal rights as U.S. citizens. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, no state had the right to "make or enforce any law" that deprived any person "of life, liberty or property, without due process of law . . . " Previously, the Constitution had focused on what the federal government could or could not do. Now, the Fourteenth Amendment was specifying limitations on state governments.

Because the Fourteenth Amendment opened up a whole new area of law, it gave rise to many court cases. Over the second half of the nineteenth century, the Supreme Court handed down many decisions that helped to define what the Fourteenth Amendment meant by "due process of law." One of the most significant of these decisions was Hurtado v. California.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Hurtado v. California - Significance, The Right To Be Indicted, "ancient Established Law", "incapable Of Progress Or Improvement"