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U.S. News
5: Due process and protection of property

Wednesday, November 27, 2002


The concepts of due process and protection of property were not created by the Fifth Amendment. From the time of the Magna Carta in 1215, the role of government as a protector of property rights was a central tenet of governance. "Hence it is a mistake to think that the Supreme or Legislative Power of any Commonwealth can do what it will and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily or take any part of them at pleasure," wrote John Locke in 1690. Locke's influence on English and American thinking was considerable. Most people think of the Fifth Amendment in terms of guards against forced confessions and self-incrimination -- such as "taking the Fifth." In fact, the Fifth is a broad and complex amendment. An entire body of legal argument has been built around its role in protecting the rights of property.

Today, the due process rights that protect property from arbitrary seizure have meant a long delay as the Urban Redevelopment Authority tries to take, by eminent domain, the run-down porn movie house called The Garden Cinema on the North Side. Its owner, George Androtsakis, has fought in court since 1997 to keep the city from taking the property as part of an urban makeover of the decaying neighborhood along North Avenue.

Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

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