Evolution of Substantive Due Process: A Contemporary Perspective

In the realm of Substantive Due Process (SDP), legal concepts have undergone significant evolution over the years. Key developments include the introduction of the presumption of liberty by Peckham and the emergence of the presumption of constitutionality in the 1930s. The 1950 case of Lee Optical applied a rational basis, guided by Holmes, establishing a new precedent.

Meyers and Pierce, once regarded as cases involving both economic and personal liberty, have taken a distinct turn in their interpretation. Pierce, originally centering on a military academy rather than religious concerns like nuns, showcases the nuanced nature of these cases.

The Supreme Court has shifted its categorization of Meyer and Pierce away from Lochner-style substantive due process cases. Justice Stone clarified that Meyer, initially about parental rights, now pertains to free religion under the First Amendment. Similarly, Pierce is recognized for addressing religious concerns, deviating from its original understanding.

Meyer’s focus on parents’ right to guide children’s upbringing, initially tied to a teacher’s employment, has been subtly transformed into First Amendment matters. This reinterpretation highlights the evolving nature of these cases over time.

Lochner and Atkins are no longer considered valid legal precedents, with Peckham’s influence being notable in shaping this shift. Mueller, though not for gender discrimination, stands as a sound legal precedent, emphasizing deference to the state.

Buchanan v. Worley, originally an economic liberty case, has been reinterpreted as an equal protection case, prohibiting racial discrimination. Despite being valid during the era of Plessy’s “separate but equal” doctrine, Worley has undergone a rewriting process.

Pierce, encapsulating both economic and personal liberty, represents a broader category of liberty cases in the early 20th century. Brown v. Board of Education references Worley, establishing the impermissibility of racial discrimination.

Buck v. Bell, not overturned, is cited favorably in unexpected cases, such as Roe v. Wade. Roe emphasizes the absence of an absolute right to control one’s body, allowing the state to enforce pregnancy or sterilization – a concept derived from Buck v. Bell.

The state’s authority to compel sterilization implies its power to enforce pregnancy. Additionally, the state has the authority to mandate vaccination for individuals.

Meyer and Pierce, initially personal liberty cases involving teaching Bible stories and a Catholic school, respectively, have been reinterpreted by the contemporary Supreme Court as First Amendment cases concerning free speech and religious exercise. This reinterpretation diverges from the original understanding in the 1950s when the Court reshaped Meyer and Pierce.

A potential reinterpretation of Meyer and Pierce by the Supreme Court could lead to the overturning of Lochner and Atkins, marking a significant shift in SDP jurisprudence.

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