Half a Loaf

There are a number of different strands of interpretation as to what the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment means when it come to state administration of criminal justice.

But you don't care about that.

The important thing is that one of those strands of interpretation is known as the Rule of Law interpretation, first embodied in Justice Matthew's opinion in Hurtado v. California. The basic idea is that there are certain foundational principals of what constitutes a just criminal proceeding inherent in the Common Law, and the Due Process Clause places a constitutional requirement on the states to adhere to those principals when implementing their criminal justice systems.

This led to the Vagueness Doctrine, which holds that laws that are so vague that they can't possibly guide people's behavior are unconstitutional violations of Due Process.

At last, the point: In 1971, the Supreme Court, in the case of Coates v. Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611 (1971), struck down a statute that forbade conduct "annoying to persons passing by." They expanded upon this in the case of Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972), which invalidated a statute outlawing "rogues and vagabonds," "habitual loafers," and "persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without lawful purpose or object."

It's a shame that second statute was invalidated, because it seems like it'd be endles fun to play with. First: Is "rogues and vagabonds" a conjunctive or disjunctive phrase? That is, if I am a rogue, but not a vagabond, am I violating the law? Or is it only to be applied against those who are simultaneously roques and vagabonds? And must you be both at once? Perhaps I am a vagabond in the morning and a rogue in the evening.

Also: Habitual Loafers. How much loafing may one do before it becomes a habit? I have to say I'm very guilty of this. On weekends I usually wake up around 11, and it's a rare day that sees me showered and changed out of my sleep clothes before 2 in the afternoon. Perhaps, though, I could get a lighter sentence by going state's witness and turning in other loafers of my acquaintance. For example, there's a pair of old brown leather shoes sitting beside my desk that I rather suspect of being loafers pretty much all of the time. They've turned habitual loafing into an addiction.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on June 13, 2007 12:46 AM.

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