Robert G. Natelson

Prof. Robert G. Natelson

Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, Independence Institute

Topics: Federalism & Separation of Powers • Professional Responsibility & Legal Education

Robert G. Natelson is one of America's best-known constitutional scholars. For 23 years, he served as Professor of Law at the University of Montana, where he taught Constitutional Law and became a recognized national expert on the framing and adoption of the United States Constitution. He pioneered the use of source material, such as important Founding-Era law books, overlooked by other writers, and he has been the first to uncover key facts about some of the most significant parts of the Constitution. Rob has written for some of the most prestigious academic publishers, including Cambridge University Press, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and Texas Law Review. In addition to his discoveries in U.S. Constitutional law, he has achieved other significant "firsts:"

  • His webpage, The Scholarship of the Original Understanding of the Constitution (now partly duplicated here) was the first online guide to "originalist" research.
  • For the University of Montana, he created the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Montana Constitution, the first organized collection (either on-line or in print) of materials explaining the 1972 Montana Constitution to the ratifiers just before they voted on it.
  • In conjunction with his eldest daughter Rebecca, he edited and posted the first complete Internet versions of the Emperor Justinian's great Roman law collection (in Latin).

There are several keys to Rob's 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 hard to keep his historical investigations objective. Most critical, however, have been lessons and habits learned in the "real world:" Before his academic career began, Rob practiced law in two states, ran two separate businesses, and served as a regular real estate law columnist for the Rocky Mountain News. Later, he created and hosted Montana's first statewide commercial radio talk show and became Montana's best known political activist -- leading, among other campaigns -- the most successful petition referendum drive in the history of the state. He also helped push through several important pieces of Montana legislation, and in June 2000, was the runner-up among five candidates in the party primaries for Governor of Montana. For recreation, Rob spends time in the great outdoors, where he particularly enjoys hiking and skiing with his wife and three daughters.


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