Ninth Amendment

The Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution acts as a safety net to ensure all individuals are afforded their fundamental rights, even if they are not specifically mentioned. This Amendment works in conjunction with the first eight Amendments to make up the Bill of Rights. The Ninth Amendment includes rights that are not specifically listed in the Constitution. Because these rights not detailed, they have been very controversial in regards to the law and the judicial system. To explore this concept, consider the following Ninth Amendment definition.

Definition of Ninth Amendment

Noun

  1. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the rights enumerated in the Constitution cannot be interpreted as denying or jeopardizing other rights of the people.

Origin

Proposed in 1789 and ratified on December 15, 1791.

What is the Ninth Amendment

Ninth Amendment is designed to protect citizens of the United States from an expansion of governmental power. Since it is impossible to list each and every power and right afforded to the people, the Ninth Amendment acts as a catch-all to those rights that are specifically listed. The main purpose of the amendment is to protect individuals’ basic rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which are listed in the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers of America believed that these natural rights, or “inalienable rights,” are a gift from God or nature, and cannot be denied.

Background of the Ninth Amendment

The Ninth Amendment was one of the most controversial amendments in the Bill of Rights. In 1789, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton presented a draft of the Amendment to the House of Representatives, despite the argument from the Federalists that it weakened the power of the state and federal government. The final text of the Amendment became an official part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791 after a three-fourths majority of the states approved it. This pleased the anti-federalists who were in favor of protecting the people from a centralized government overextending its power.

Supreme Court and the Ninth Amendment

When it comes to the Ninth Amendment, the court system is bound by a guide led by basic common sense. Since there is not written foundations for interpreting the rights covered in the amendment, it is up to the court to decide what is and what is not covered. In general, the amendment is regarded as a preventative measure to keep the government from expanding its powers when concerning the rights of the people. Since there is much controversy, even among leaders in the court systems, there has never been a judicial decision made on the basis of the amendment alone. The amendment has simply been cited in certain cases. Due to the lack of cases in which the amendment has been used as a basis for, it is sometimes referred to as “the silent amendment.”

State and Federal Protection

In the 1833 landmark Supreme Court case Barron v Baltimore, the Court ruled that the Ninth Amendment pertained to the federal courts only, and not to the state level of government. Basically, that meant that, originally, the Amendment protected the rights of the people from expanding power of the federal government, which is a government of “enumerated powers.” This is where the Fourteenth Amendment comes in, as it contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause which limits the powers of the state government. These two amendments work in conjunction with one another to ensure all rights are protected at all levels of government.

Right to Privacy

The United States Constitution does not explicitly mention the right to privacy, and this is just one example of the vagueness of the Ninth Amendment. According to the founders of the Constitution, including James Madison, the right to privacy is just one example of the rights not listed in, but interpreted in the Ninth Amendment. Because the right to privacy is not specifically mentioned, there is plenty of controversy regarding whether or not the right truly exists. In the 1920s, the Supreme Court has regarded the right to privacy as a guarantee of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment.

Landmark Ninth Amendment Court Case

A number of Ninth Amendment court cases have been heard over the years, covering additional rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Such rights of privacy include child rearing, marriage, and the right to choose or deny medical treatment.

Griswold v Connecticut

The 1965 U.S. Supreme Court case of Griswold v Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), challenged Connecticut’s 1879 law prohibiting the use of “any drug, medicinal article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception.” Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. Charles Lee Buxton, opened a birth control clinic in New Haven. The pair were arrested, tried, and convicted of offering services to prevent conception, and fined.

Griswold appealed the case, which had been upheld in both the appellate court and Connecticut Supreme Court, to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the state law against the use of contraceptives violated the Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…nor deny any person the equal protection of the laws.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut law was unconstitutional, as it violated the “right to marital privacy.” The 7-2 decision pointed out that, although the Bill of Rights does not specifically mention “privacy,” it is inherent and implied in other protections provided by the Constitution, and that the right to privacy is seen as a right of individuals to be protected against governmental intrusion into their lives.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Bill of Rights – The first ten amendments in the United States Constitution which cover the basics rights afforded to the people. These include freedom of speech, right to bear arms, and the right to assemble.
  • Enumerated – Mentioned separately, named one-by-one, as if counting.
  • Fourteenth Amendment – The Fourteenth Amendment provides people equal protection under the law, and protects those rights given to all men by God.
  • Fundamental Rights – Rights that are recognized by the Supreme Court that afford people a high degree of protection from the government.
  • Judicial Decision – A decision made by a judge regarding the matter or case at hand.
  • Majority – A number larger than half of the total.
  • Unenumerated Rights – Rights that are implied from other legal rights, but that are not expressly written or enumerated.

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