The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects “life, liberty and property.” The term “property” as used in the Clause incorporates more than ownership of real estate, chattels, or money. It includes “interests already acquired in specific benefits.” However, to have a property interest in a benefit, there must be more than an abstract need or desire for it. There must be a legitimate claim of entitlement to such property interest under state or federal law.
Liberty under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is expansive and extends beyond the freedom from physical restraints. The Court has ruled that the phrase “life, liberty and property” is a “unitary concept embracing all interests valued by sensible men.” In the area of substantive due process litigation, usually the issue presented is the constitutionality of a state infringement on a liberty. The Court then focuses on the degree of justification a state must show to defend that infringement successfully.