SW Legal studies in Business

Two Requirements Must Be Met to Bring Substantive Due Process Claim

Illinois appeals court held that to bring a substantive due process claim under the 14th Amendment, a plaintiff must plead both the violation of a substantive liberty interest and an action by a government official that shocks the conscience.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

Substantive Due Process; 14th Amendment; Claim

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Karabetsos got into a scrap with the Village of Lombard. She contended that Village officials manipulated her to agree to repairs to her front porch in exchange for the Village not citing her for building a back porch without a building permit. She claimed the Village violated her substantive due process rights under the 14th Amendment. Defendants, requesting dismissal of the claim, sought an interlocutory review by the appeals court. As a result, the trial court certified the following question for review by the appellate court: “When pleading a cause of action for a violation of substantive due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against a public body or official, is the plaintiff required to plead both (1) arbitrary conduct which shocks the conscience and (2) a constitutionally protected interest affected or adversely impacted thereby or is it sufficient to plead only one of the foregoing elements?”


It is necessary to plead both elements. For a substantive due process claim, it is necessary for a plaintiff to plead facts showing both a constitutionally protected interest and conduct by a government actor (Village official) that shocks the conscience. A fundamental right must be involved. This is a matter related to “the concept of ordered liberty.” It does not include every constitutional right or legislative right. If such a fundamental right is at the heart of the matter, then the court must determine whether executive action infringing on that right is so egregious as to shock the conscience. The purpose of the 14th Amendment here is to prevent the government from abusing its power or use it as an instrument of oppression. So, to state a cause of action for a due process claim, there must be a violation of a specific property or liberty interest and the government official’s action must shock the conscience. Question answered.


Karabetsos v. Village of Lombard, ---N.E.2d--- (2008 WL 5051959, Ct. App., Ill., 2008)

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