The Ninth Amendment: Citizens’ Safety Net for Liberty?
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Bland, vague and unspecific? Maybe so, but in its understated elegance, the Ninth Amendment contains vital and overarching protection of unenumerated, and often suggested ‘natural,’ rights. To create the simplest metaphor, because our nation’s founding documents might list a citizen’s right to consume spinach, peas and carrots doesn’t mean he or she can be infringed upon by the government to not eat cauliflower. The decision to identify or not identify specific rights and liberties was vital in the debates of the Founding Fathers. Further, the Ninth Amendment is an American construct (primarily authored by James Madison), without roots in English Law.
The Ninth Amendment was seldom cited by the Supreme Court prior to 1965, but is increasingly part of the judicial discussion of privacy rights (has government growth in the post-war period yielded more points of conflict with rights? See chart below).
While the U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy, the Bill of Rights offers singular rights such as as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), and privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment). Thus, the Ninth Amendment follows on as justification for more broadly reading the Bill of Rights to protect privacy and other natural rights in ways not specifically provided for in the other amendments—a safety net. Interesting source material is available at http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/9th+Amendment.