Skip to main content

February Donald Trump Just Owned June Sarah Huckabee Sanders


So according to our press secretary, due process doesn’t actually have anything to do with judges. Feel free to listen to this clip as you face palm.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ absurd packaging of legal fairness temporarily aside, it’s rather amusing to reflect on what her boss had to say these few months ago. As always, there’s a tweet:

Seems sort of like Trump thinks a day in court might actually be just the process due to those accused of wrongdoing. Or perhaps that’s just when the accused is him.

Let’s recap with some context. During today’s press briefing, ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked Sanders whether President favors stripping people of all due process rights when they are suspected of having immigrated illegally; her response was essentially, “yup.”

I know Ms. Sanders has a lot to do, but it’d probably be a good idea if she cracked open a book before spouting nonsense in the name of due process. In the American legal system, there are two kinds of due process: substantive and procedural. Substantive due process refers to one’s freedom to exercise certain fundamental rights free from over-intrusive government interference. That analysis can be rather complex and isn’t directly relevant to claims of asylum made at the border.

On the other hand, procedural due process is pretty simple. It refers to an individual’s right to be notified, heard, and adjudged by a neutral decision-maker prior to be deprived of life, liberty, or property. Sure, there are instances in which, the aforementioned neutral decision-maker isn’t technically a “judge”—in the sense that the person might have some other official title. But if we’re using just regular normal words, “judge” refers to some qualified person making neutral decisions. In that context, we can just skip ahead to the part to the page where that’s exactly what “due process” requires.

Under the most basic tenets of the Constitution (and I mean kindergarten-level basic here), people in our country are entitled to a hearing before being taken from, locked up, or thrown out. Sadly for Sarah Sanders, even if it were true that “virtually all Americans agree” that complying with the Constitution is a waste of time and resources when all that’s at stake is the liberty of a few immigrants, obliterating the fundamentals of American law isn’t her call – or even Trump’s – to make. Due process absolutely requires that those who face penalties have the chance to plead their case. Any suggestion otherwise is just plain wrong.

Of course, merely saying that immigrants — even those who immigrated unlawfully —  have a right to due process runs the risk of oversimplifying a multifaceted debate. The Supreme Court has opined on just how much process is due before deportations in different circumstances, and the decisions weave a complex jurisprudential tapestry.  Just this past Spring, Trump’s own Justice Gorsuch sided with liberal justices in Sessions v. Dimaya, holding that traditional norms of due process must be afforded to those facing deportation due to the gravity of the penalty that deportation poses.

Disturbing as it is to think that our executive branch believes it can rewrite the rules of law and logic, I have to wonder if perhaps there’s some good that could result from applying Sanders’ logic across the board:

[(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos