Basically, due process, in its simple form, is a promise of legality and fair procedure. It’s a fundamental principal of fairness.
Due process is nothing new. Its history can be traced back to at least the Magna Carta. King John promised that “no man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” While that is taking it way back, there is no doubt the the Magna Carta had a great impact on thirteen colonies and the formation of the Constitution of the United States and its Bill of Rights. Due process is mentioned twice in the Constitution, once in the Fifth Amendment and again in the Fourteenth Amendment.
Due process, guaranteed under the Constitution, applies to both criminal and civil acts. If someone is accused of murder, they have the right to defend themselves against the charge in the Court system by having a jury hear the evidence and render a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If you are given a ticket by the local police for driving 45 mph in a 40 mph zone, you are automatically given a Court date to appear. At your Court date, you can plead guilty and pay a speeding fine or you can plead not guilty and the Court will set the matter for a hearing where evidence will be presented before rendering a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The right to stand and face your accused and receive a fair hearing – the opportunity to prove your innocence or the accussor to prove your guilt – that’s due process. This prevents someone from summarily being pronounced guilty, without having the right to defend themselves, and forces the accussor to have actual evidence of guilt. It is a safeguard for the people.
Knowing that due process is ingrained in our civilize society from receiving a speeding ticket to being accused of felonious acts, why are animal rights activists in an uproar over the USDA removing items from their website that violate due process? Why is the main focus the argument over the right to privacy and not the lack of due process?
Many do not realize that thousands of Letters of Warning have been issued in matters involving the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act that violate the sanctity of due process. Yes, you read that correctly. The United States Department of Agriculture, our own federal government, has seen fit for years to completely disregard American’s Constitutional right to due process. Regardless of what you believe is right or wrong, the federal government acting in such disregard should scare you and should anger you. Due process has a long history. It’s well established. How can anyone support our federal government showing such wanton disregard to something so basic as the right to due process?
Thousands of people have had their right to due process snuffed out by the USDA. Every time a Letter of Warning was mailed, due process never came into play and the USDA never intended for it to. Multiple Tech Notes issued by the USDA over the years clearly state that a Letter of Warning is not a finding of guilt and since it was merely a warning, no hearing to determine guilty or innocence was necessary. While those Tech Notes were kind enough to point out that Letters of Warning were not findings of guilt, the actual language of the Letters of Warning beg to differ.
Letters of Warning issued prior to Fall, 2016, clearly state “OFFICIAL WARNING VIOLATION OF FEDERAL REGULATION” and go on to to state “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has evidence that on or about the date(s) listed below, you or your organization committed the following violation(s) of Federal Regulations”; and “Any further violation of these federal regulations may result in the assessment of a civil penalty, criminal prosecution, or other sanctions.”
Letters of Warning issued after Fall, 2016, state “OFFICIAL WARNING NOTICE OF ALLEGED VIOLATION” and go on to state “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has evidence that on or about the date(s) listed below, you or your organization committed the following alleged violation(s) of Federal laws”. It is nice them to add “This Official Warning is not to be construed as a final agency action, or as an adjudicated finding of a violation. If APHIS obtains evidence of any future violation of these federal regulations, APHIS may pursue civil penalties, criminal prosecution or other sanctions for this alleged violation(s) and for any future violation(s).”
No where on the Letters or Warning nor anywhere on the USDA’s website can you find “What to do if you disagree with a Letter of Warning”. You can call the USDA and ask them, but you will be told there is nothing for you to do because a Letter of Warning doesn’t require a response. You cannot ask to review their evidence or even ascertain if they have evidence. You cannot ask for hearing. That, is a clear denial of due process. Our federal government should not be allowed to summarily pronounce guilt or allege guilt on any one while denying the accused the right to due process. Our federal government should be held to the highest of standards and serve as an example for others to follow.
I know of no one that is asking for the right to violate the Animal Welfare Act or the Horse Protection Act and remain anonymous in doing so. The USDA has even said those found guilty will remain on their website. Yet, animal rights activists like HSUS remain outraged by the USDA’s decision. While I’m sure that HSUS and other animal rights activists clearly understand that due process is a fundamental right, they simply do not care and will gladly toss every American citizen’s right to the wayside to further their agenda.
Please do not be fooled by the animal right’s cries of “What about the those poor abused animals?” routine or “Trump hates animals”. Those are designed to trick you into supporting their cause and their cause tramples all over the right to due process. Remember that those actually found guilty of violating the AWA and/or HPA remain on the USDA’s website. With the others that have been removed, remember that they have been removed because there is no finding of guilt. If and when there are findings of guilt, they will be posted on the USDA’s website.
God bless the Constitution. This whole debate has nothing to do with protecting animal abusers. It has everything to do with the constitutional rights of Americans.