Robert G. Natelson is a nationally known constitutional scholar and author whose research into the history and legal meaning of the Constitution has been cited repeatedly at the U.S. Supreme Court, federal appeals courts, and state supreme courts—both by parties and by U.S. and state Supreme Court justices and by federal appellate judges. He is widely acknowledged to be the country’s leading active scholar on the Constitution’s amendment procedure and among the leaders on several other topics.
He was a law professor for 25 years, serving at three different universities, where among other subjects he taught Constitutional Law, Constitutional History, Advanced Constitutional Law, and First Amendment. Professor Natelson is currently the Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, IL, the Independence Institute in Denver, Colorado, and the Montana Policy Institute in Bozeman, Montana. He heads the Independence Institute’s Article V Information Center.
Professor Natelson’s articles and books span many different parts of the Constitution, including groundbreaking studies of the Necessary and Proper Clause, federalism, Founding-Era interpretation, regulation of elections, and the amendment process of Article V. In addition to his authorship of law journal articles and legal books, he has written the highly influential Article V Handbook for state lawmakers; the popular book, The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant; and numerous shorter pieces for media outlets. Recent contributions have been published by the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Denver Post, the American Spectator, the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Townhall.com, The Hill, CNSNews, and the Daily Caller, among others.
Professor Natelson is especially known for his studies of the Constitution’s original meaning. His research has carried him to libraries throughout the United States and in Britain, including four months at Oxford. The results have included several break-through discoveries.
U.S. Supreme Court justices have relied explicitly on his research in six cases:
- Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm’n, 135 S.Ct. 2652, 2684 (2015) (Roberts, C.J., dissenting)
- National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, 134 S.Ct. 2550, 2596 (2014) (Scalia, J., concurring)
- Town of Greece v. Galloway, 134 S.Ct. 1811, 1835 (2014) (Thomas, J., concurring)
- Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2247, 2265 (2013) (Thomas, J., dissenting)
- Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S.Ct. 2552, 2565 & passim (2013) (Thomas, J., concurring).
- Upstate Citizens for Equality v. United States, 583 U.S. ___ (2017) (Thomas, J. dissenting from denial of certiorari).
Professor Natelson has been cited on constitutional and non-constitutional subjects in several federal appeals courts:
- By Justice (then Judge) Gorsuch in Kerr v. Hickenlooper, 754 F.3d 1156,1195 (10th Cir. 2014) (dissenting)
- United States Telecom Ass’n v. Federal Communications Comm’n, 855 F.3d 381, 414 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (Srinivasan J., concurring)
- Upstate Citizens for Equality v. United States, 841 F.3d 556, 568 (2d Cir. 2016) (op. for court, Carney, J.)
- Berlin v. Renaissance Rental Partners, 723 F.3d 119 (2d Cir. 2013) (Jacobs, C.J., dissenting)
His work on constitutional and non-constitutional subjects has been relied upon by the highest state courts in Alaska, California, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington, and by the highest court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Professor Natelson’s publications are too numerous to list; the bibliography listed here is just a sample.
Besides writing articles on the U.S. Constitution, he
- created the first online guide to “originalist” research (now partly duplicated here)
- created the database the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Montana Constitution;
- in conjunction with his eldest daughter Rebecca, edited the first complete Internet versions of the Emperor Justinian’s great Roman law collection (in Latin);
- built an extensive bibliography of articles on property law, legal history, legal remedies, and other subjects.
There are several keys to his success as a scholar. Unlike most constitutional writers, he has academic training not merely in law or in history, but in both, as well as in the Latin classics that were the mainstay of Founding-Era education. He works to keep his historical investigations objective. He also has the benefit of lessons and habits learned in the “real world,” since prior to entering academia he practiced law in two states, ran his own businesses, and worked as a journalist and at other jobs.
For about a decade, Professor Natelson had a career in public life in his “spare time.” He created and hosted Montana’s first statewide commercial radio talk show; became the state’s best known political activist; led, among other campaigns, the most successful petition-referendum drive in state history; and helped push through several important pieces of legislation. In June 2000, he was the runner-up among five candidates in the party primaries for Governor.
Recreation? he loves to spend time in the great outdoors, where he enjoys hiking and skiing with his wife and three daughters. He also likes travel, science fiction, and opera. He is active in the Denver Lyric Opera Guild.