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Page 10--Robert G. Natelson

NatelsonA major figure today in the Article V Convention movement, Professor Robert G. Natelson first entered the AVC scene in 2010 with the publication of a policy report (shown below) at the Goldwater Institute located in Phoenix, Arizona. In that report he advocated the legal theory that the principles of fiduciary law (sometimes referred to as master/slave or employer/employee law) rather than constitutional law be applied to an Article V Convention. This theory of law has served as the basis for the creation of the political groups Convention of States and Compact for America. As of January, 2017 Professor Natelson, who retired from the University of Montana, is currently a Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence for the Independence Institute based in Denver, Colorado.

The main theme of Natelson's fiduciary theory is the American people have no place in an Article V Convention. Thus the people are not allowed to vote for the delegates who attend the convention nor are they allowed any public debate regarding the convention agenda. Rather, Natelson advocates total control of the convention process by a few select members of the various state legislatures. Natelson also believes the agenda of a convention should be pre-determined by the legislatures. He believes the legislatures should be free to "instruct" the delegates to a convention on all aspects of the convention from debate and ultimately to vote. Natelson refers to these unelected delegates as "commissioners" and believes they totally are controlled by the state legislatures with no input from the people whatsoever. This theory of convention is known as a "closed" convention (See: Page 11 A, Page 11 D).

Natelson bases his theory on the practices of conventions that were held in America prior to the colonies declaring their independence when the colonies were still under British rule and law. Under that law the King established convention agenda. The King had the power to arrest anyone who failed to follow any "instructions" he made in regards to the convention. In the present time several states have passed laws calling for felony arrest of delegates should they fail to follow "instructions" from a few select members of the state legislatures. Natelson has never publicly repudiated these state laws.

While Natelson denies he ever advocated such policy, nevertheless the fact remains that felony arrest of delegates who refuse to obey the "instructions" of state legislators stems from the fact that during the time period Natelson bases his theory, colonial America, it was the practice of the British government to arrest anyone who disobeyed the King's orders including those regarding a convention. All conventions Natelson uses as the basis of his legal theory were held under these terms: strict control of convention agenda by order of the King; threat of arrest for failure to obey the "instructions" of the King. American independence in 1783 replaced the sovereign tyranny of the King with the popular sovereignty of the people meaning no act of government could occur with consent of the governed. Thus the law Mr. Natelson bases his theory on law that no longer exists in America but which Mr. Natelson asserts still has legal affect.

FOAVC believes the question of whether the people or the state legislatures should  control of the convention is vital. In short, the question is shall we operate under the law of the Constitution, or return to the law of the King which the American people replaced in 1783? Ironically, it is the American people who will decide whether or not changes to their Constitution will be decided by themselves acting in their traditional roles of election and participation or by a select few legislators who will decide all matters without input from the people. It boils down to a choice between a democratic and autocratic form of government.


In order to best understand the "fiduciary" theory of Robert Natelson and the objections to it raised by FOAVC co-founder Bill Walker, FOAVC presents the two reports side by side for review. The  reports can be read  by clicking on the appropriate image below:

Natelson link
Walker link


Following his Goldwater Institute report, Natelson wrote the Article V Convention policy for ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council). The latest version of the ALEC report can be read by clicking the title page image below. Beside the title page is a summary sheet from the report showing Natelson's advocacy of unelected "commissioners" for an Article V Convention.

ALEC (1)
ALEC 2

FOAVC has published several articles (shown below) about Robert Natelson, his "fiduciary" theory and ALEC expressing concern about legal theory and discussing errors discovered about the theory.

FOAVC has three major concerns about Natelson's theory:
For these reasons FOAVC is presenting Robert Natelson's legal theory so that the American people may judge for themselves whether or not this is the form of government they desire.

Over time Natelson has presented contradictory statements about his theory. For example, Natelson  recently stated in one publication a convention is federal in nature (thus controlled by federal laws, court rulings and so forth) while simultaneously writing in another publication a convention is state in nature (meaning it is controlled by state law and is not subject to federal law). Both statements cannot be true. Either, as the federal courts have ruled, a convention is federal in nature, or it is state in nature as Robert Natelson asserts.

FOAVC believes the public should carefully weigh the merits of a legal theory which purports to be the basis for regulation of the amendment process, particularly where the legal theory's central theme is the exclusion of the American people from that process, yet is not even consistently supported by its original author. The articles below are printed in publication order:


The ALEC Article V Convention Report, The CATO Proposal--Examining The Errors

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind demands such dissolution be based on accurate information least mankind come to the conclusion the people are idiots. More...


People v Natelson: The FEC Showdown
Regulation Vote Signals Fed Decision on Rogue AVC Fiduciary Theory

A decision by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) on a petition to change the regulatory definition of elected federal office to include delegates to an Article V Convention has become the battleground to determine whether an Article V Convention will be an open, freely elected convention or is hijacked by well financed special interests bent on making a convention nothing more than an orchestrated showpiece for their own political agenda. The crux of this argument is the Robert Natelson (master/slave) theory. More...


 
Natelson Lays AVC Rules Egg

In yet another example of academic narcissism Robert G. Natelson, "foremost scholar" in the Article V movement released a draft version of proposed operational "rules" for an Article V Convention in the last of July. Per his usual custom Natelson's primary source of reference for his "rules" himself who he quoted extensively. More...

 

Correcting Robert Natelson Yet Again

Recent events cause me to write yet another article correct the factual errors of Robert Natelson, so called "Article V scholar." If Robert Natelson was, in fact, a scholar instead of a factual charlatan my life would be much simpler. Robert Natelson is consistently factually inaccurate. He ignores relevant facts, twists them to suit his own purpose or misstates them. More...

Which Way Now, Bob?
One thing that amazes me in the Article V movement is how Robert Natelson can, without shame, shed his position on an issue like a snake shedding his skin and how people let him get away with it without calling him on it. I'm not one of them; though in this case I'm happy to endorse his new coat. More...


Robert Natelson v Compact for America
(A Political Lesson in How to Beat Your Enemy by Destroying Yourself)

In what is best described as a prostitution of his beliefs Robert G. Natelson of Convention of States (COS) fame has, for the second time, attacked his old boss from the Goldwater Institute Nick Dranias, now executive director of Compact for America (CFA) in a recently released "legal treatise." More...

Robert Natelson v Compact for America
(A Political Lesson in How to Beat Your Enemy by Destroying Yourself) Round Two

Having been distracted with personal issues which still plague me but finding at last some time to begin again to comment on events regarding the Article V movement, I'd like to discuss the continuing sage of Robert Natelson v Compact for America (CFA), round two. According to Google on April 3, 2016 Robert Natelson released a report blasting Compact for America as unconstitutional. More...

Robert Natelson's Latest ALEC Report; a Study in Contradiction

When someone is trying to persuade other people to their political point of view, the worst mistake they can make is contradiction. It is bad enough to be contradictory in speech; it approaches a mortal political sin when the contradiction can be demonstrated in print. This is the situation Robert Natelson, ("widely acknowledged to be the country's leading scholar on the Constitution's amendment procedure") faces. More...

Page Last Updated: 6-MARCH 2017