Professor Robert G. Natelson, who contracts with II, heads the Institute’s Constitutional Studies Center and its Article V Information Center. He 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 state and federal judges and justices. 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 created the first-ever online bibliography for 18th century materials used in constitutional research.
He was a law professor for 25 years, serving at three different universities. Among other subjects, he taught Constitutional Law, Constitutional History, Advanced Constitutional Law, and First Amendment. Professor Natelson is especially known for his studies of the Constitution’s original meaning. His research on that subject has carried him to libraries throughout the United States and in Britain, including four months at Oxford. His books and articles span many different parts of the Constitution, including groundbreaking studies of the Necessary and Proper Clause, the Indian Commerce Clause, federalism, Founding-Era interpretation, regulation of elections, and the amendment process of Article V.
U.S. Supreme Court justices have relied explicitly on Professor Natelson’s research in eight cases (sometimes several times in the same case):
- United States v. Vaello Madero, 596 U.S. ___ (2022) (Thomas, J., concurring)
- Espinoza v. Montana Dep’t of Revenue, 591 U.S. ___ (2020) (Alito, J., concurring)
- Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm’n, 576 U.S. 787, 836 (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, 572 U.S. 565, 605-05 (2014) (Thomas, J., concurring)
- Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., 570 U.S. 1, 30 (2013) (Thomas, J., dissenting)
- Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 570 U.S. 637, 658-59 & passim (2013) (Thomas, J., concurring).
- Upstate Citizens for Equality v. United States, 583 U.S. ___ (2017) (Thomas, J. dissenting from denial of certiorari).
He has been cited on constitutional and non-constitutional subjects in these federal appeals court cases:
- 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)
- CREW v. Trump, 939 F.3d , 131, 162 (2d Cir. 2019) (Walker, J., dissenting)
Professor Natelson’s work on constitutional and non-constitutional subjects also 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, Vermont, and Washington;
- the highest court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico;
- intermediate state appellate courts in Oregon and Washington; and
- U.S. District Courts in Colorado, Maine Nevada, and Wisconsin.
He is a principal author of several Supreme Court briefs submitted by the Independence Institute and other organizations to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and the Colorado and Montana Supreme Courts.
In addition to his work on U.S. constitutional issues:
- in conjunction with his eldest daughter Rebecca, he edited the first complete Internet versions of the Emperor Justinian’s great Roman law collection (in Latin);
- he has published widely on property law, legal history, and legal remedies; and
- he has published extensive historical and legal research on the Montana state constitution, and he created the database the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Montana Constitution.
Professor Natelson is a member of the Board of Scholars of the American Legislative Exchange Council and formerly served as a senior advisor to the Convention of States Project.
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 Greco-Roman classics that were the mainstay of Founding-Era education. He works to keep his historical investigations objective. He has the benefit of lessons and habits learned in the “real world,” because prior to entering academia he practiced law in two states, ran his own businesses, and worked as a journalist and at other jobs.
For the popular market, Professor Natelson authored the highly influential Article V Handbook for state lawmakers and the popular book, The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant. He is a weekly essayist for The Epoch Times, an international newspaper, where his contributions have been translated into Chinese, German, and other languages. His contributions also have appeared in the following national outlets: The Washington Post, the Washington Times, The Economist, the American Spectator, the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, the Daily Caller, Townhall.com, The Hill, and CNSNews.
Activities in Colorado and Montana
Professor Natelson grew up on the Revolutionary War town of Stony Point, New York—which helps explain his interest in the American Founding—but he has split most of his adult life between Colorado (1977-1987; 2011-present and Montana (1987-2011). His writings have appeared in most major news outlets in Colorado and in all major news outlets in Montana, and he regularly makes personal appearances in both states. His professional offices are in Colorado, as is his law license. When living in Montana, he created and hosted the state’s first statewide commercial radio talk show; became Montana’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 of the State of Montana.
Recreation? He loves to spend time in the great outdoors, where he enjoys skiing and hiking, either alone or in the company of his wife, daughters, and sons-in-law. He also likes travel, science fiction, and opera, and is active in the Denver Lyric Opera Guild.