The Bill of Rights and Civil Liberties

How are your rights defined and protected under the Constitution?

5.6 Rights and Powers of the States and the People

The last two amendments, the Ninth and Tenth, are the most general amendments in the Bill of Rights, The Ninth Amendment is designed to offer protection for rights and liberties not specifically mentioned in the other amendments. The Tenth Amendment is meant to preserve the balance of power between the federal and state governments.

The Ninth Amendment: Your Rights Beyond Those Listed in the Constitution

The Ninth Amendment is the Bill of Rights’ “safety net” It states that other rights and liberties may exist beyond those listed in the Constitution, and it offers protection for those unenumerated rights. Some of these unlisted rights were later protected under other amendments and laws. For more than 150 years, however, the Supreme Court rarely cited the Ninth Amendment and never clearly defined what rights it might include.

In 1965, in the case of Griswold v, Connecticut, some justices on the Court declared that the Ninth Amendment includes the right to privacy, Estelle Griswold, an official with the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, had been arrested for providing medical advice to married couples on how to prevent pregnancy. Her actions violated a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives, In its decision, the Court declared that the law violated marital privacy rights, Eight years later, in Roe v, Wade (1963), the Court extended the right to privacy to include a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Although the Constitution does not specifically mention privacy, the Court said that it was an implied right in the First, Third, and Fourth amendments. The Ninth Amendment provides further support, the Court said, by stating that a right need not be cited in the Constitution to be valid. The scope of the right to privacy remains a contested issue, however, and has not been fully resolved by the Court

The Tenth Amendment: Powers Reserved for the States and the People

The Tenth Amendment is concerned more with federalism, or the balance of federal and state powers, than with individual rights, it limits the powers of the federal government to those granted under the Constitution, reserving other powers for the states and the people,

Under our federal system of government, the states must uphold laws enacted by Congress. When state laws clash with federal laws, federal law takes precedence under the Supremacy Clause of Article VI.

Many areas of the law, however, are not mentioned in the Constitution or granted to the federal government Laws governing marriage and divorce are just one example. The power to regulate these and many other matters that shape our daily lives is reserved for the states.

At times, the Supreme Court has struck down federal laws that overstepped the government’s constitutional authority. One example was the decision in the case of United States v. Morrison (2000). This case focused on a law, the Violence Against Women Act, that allowed victims of domestic violence to sue their attackers in federal court. The Court struck down this law, saying that violent crime between individuals was an issue for the states, not the federal government.

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