CRS Annotated Constitution
|Ninth Amendment -- Table of Contents|
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Aside from contending that a bill of rights was unnecessary, the Federalists responded to those opposing ratification of the Constitution because of the lack of a declaration of fundamental rights by arguing that inasmuch as it would be impossible to list all rights it would be dangerous to list some because there would be those who would seize on the absence of the omitted rights to assert that government was unrestrained as to those.1 Madison adverted to this argument in presenting his proposed amendments to the House of Representatives. “It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution.”2 It is clear from its text and from Madison’s statement that the Amendment states but a rule of construction, making clear that a Bill of Rights might not by implication be taken to increase the powers of the national government in areas[p.1504]not enumerated, and that it does not contain within itself any guarantee of a right or a proscription of an infringement.3 Recently, however, the Amendment has been construed to be positive affirmation of the existence of rights which are not enumerated but which are nonetheless protected by other provisions.
The Ninth Amendment had been mentioned infrequently in decisions of the Supreme Court4 until it became the subject of some exegesis by several of the Justices in Griswold v. Connecticut.5 There a statute prohibiting use of contraceptives was voided as an infringement of the right of marital privacy. Justice Douglas, writing the opinion of the Court, asserted that the “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”6 Thus, while privacy is nowhere mentioned, it is one of the values served and protected by the First Amendment, through its protection of associational rights, and by the Third, the Fourth, and the Fifth Amendments as well. The Justice recurred to the text of the Ninth Amendment, apparently to support the thought that these penumbral rights are protected by one Amendment or a complex of Amendments despite the absence of a specific reference. Justice Goldberg, concurring, devoted several pages to the Amendment.
“The language and history of the Ninth Amendment reveal that the Framers of the Constitution believed that there are additional fundamental rights, protected from governmental infringement, which exist alongside those fundamental rights specifically mentioned in the first eight constitutional amendments. . . . To hold that a right so basic and fundamental and so deep–rooted in our society as the right of privacy in marriage may be infringed because that right is not guaranteed in so many words by the first eight amendments to the Constitution is to ignore the Ninth[p.1505]Amendment and to give it no effect whatsoever. Moreover, a judicial construction that this fundamental right is not protected by the Constitution because it is not mentioned in explicit terms by one of the first eight amendments or elsewhere in the Constitution would violate the Ninth Amendment. . . . Nor do I mean to state that the Ninth Amendment constitutes an independent source of right protected from infringement by either the States or the Federal Government. Rather, the Ninth Amendment shows a belief of the Constitution’s authors that fundamental rights exist that are not expressly enumerated in the first eight amendments and an intent that the list of rights included there not be deemed exhaustive.”7 While, therefore, neither opinion sought to make of the Ninth Amendment a substantive source of constitutional guarantees, both did read it as indicating a function of the courts to interpose a veto with regard to legislative and executive efforts to abridge other fundamental rights. In this case, both opinions seemed to concur that the fundamental right claimed and upheld was derivative of several express rights and in this case, really, the Ninth Amendment added almost nothing to the argument. But if there is a claim of a fundamental right which cannot reasonably be derived from one of the provisions of the Bill of Rights, even with the Ninth Amendment, how is the Court to determine, first, that it is fundamental, and second, that it is protected from abridgment?8
|Ninth Amendment -- Table of Contents|