Vanderbilt Law Review


Burt Neuborne

First Page



Professor Neuborne argues that we err in reading the Bill of Rights "in splendid isolation" as a randomly ordered set of clause-bound norms. Instead, he argues that the disciplined order and placement of the thirty-three ideas in the Bill of Rights, especially the six textual ideas united in the First Amendment, reveals a deep contextual structure imposed by the Founders that sheds important light on the meaning of the constitutional text. He argues that the "vertical" order of the first ten amendments, as well as the "horizontal" order of ideas within each amendment, provides important clues to a judge seeking the best reading of the text. He demonstrates that the disciplined order of ideas in the Bill of Rights was the result of considered judgments by the Founders and was not prefigured in any rights-bearing document in our history. Finally, he suggests modern readings of the First, Second, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments that are faithful to both literal text and structural context.