Volume 73, Number 4

October 1998

Reviving Hugo Black? The Court’s “Jot for Jot” Account of Substantive Due Process

Tony M. Massaro

In Graham v. Connor, the United States Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment effectively preempts any substantive due process claims that law enforcement officers used excessive force in the course of an arrest. Graham‘s disarmingly simple rationale was that an explicit textual provision trumps a more general constitutional provision. Professor Massaro argues that this rationale, as subsequently invoked by the Supreme Court and expansively applied by the lower courts in First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment cases, may ultimately have a pervasive impact on substantive due process. At the very least, the logic of Graham requires that substantive due process be confined to its current doctrinal limits. Carried to its furthest extreme, Graham requires overruling the Court’s substantive due process “unenumerated rights” caselaw altogether. The author argues that Graham is an analytical and doctrinal oddity, inconsistent with well-accepted and regularly enforced principles of constitutional interpretation, that should be overruled rather than used to revive Hugo Black’s “jot for jot” account of substantive due process.