Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth 8212 162, No. 71

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
Citation33 L.Ed.2d 548,408 U.S. 564,92 S.Ct. 2701
PartiesThe BOARD OF REGENTS OF STATE COLLEGES et al., Petitioners, v. David F. ROTH, etc. —162
Docket NumberNo. 71
Decision Date29 June 1972

408 U.S. 564
92 S.Ct. 2701
33 L.Ed.2d 548
The BOARD OF REGENTS OF STATE COLLEGES et al., Petitioners,

v.

David F. ROTH, etc.

No. 71—162.
Argued Jan. 18, 1972.
Decided June 29, 1972.

Syllabus

Respondent, hired for a fixed term of one academic year to teach at a state university, was informed without explanation that he would not be rehired for the ensuing year. A statute provided that all state university teachers would be employed initially on probation and that only after four years' continuous service would teachers achieve permanent employment 'during efficiency and good behavior,' with procedural protection against separation. University rules gave a nontenured teacher 'dismissed' before the end of the year some opportunity for review of the 'dismissal,' but provided that no reason need be given for nonretention of a nontenured teacher, and no standards were specified for reemployment. Respondent brought this action claiming deprivation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, alleging infringement of (1) his free speech right because the true reason for his nonretention was his criticism of the university administration, and (2) his procedural due process right because of the university's failure to advise him of the reason for its decision. The District Court granted summary judgment for the respondent on the procedural issue. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Held: The Fourteenth Amendment does not require opportunity for a hearing prior to the nonrenewal of a nontenured state teacher's contract, unless he can show that the nonrenewal deprived him of an interest in 'liberty' or that he had a 'property' interest in continued employment, despite the lack of tenure or a formal contract. Here the nonretention of respondent, absent any charges against him or stigma or disability foreclosing other employment, is not tantamount to a deprivation of 'liberty,' and the terms of respondent's employment accorded him no 'property' interest protected by procedural due process. The courts below therefore erred in granting summary judgment for the respondent on the procedural due process issue. Pp. 569—579.

446 F.2d 806, reversed and remanded.

Page 565

Charles A. Bleck, Asst. Atty. Gen., Madison, Wis., for petitioners.

Steven H. Steinglass, Milwaukee, Wis., for respondent.

[Amicus Curiae Information from page 565 intentionally omitted]

Page 566

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1968 the respondent, David Roth, was hired for his first teaching job as assistant professor of political science at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh. He was hired for a fixed term of one academic year. The notice of his faculty appointment specified that his employment would begin on September 1, 1968, and would end on June 30, 1969.1 The respondent completed that term. But he was informed that he would not be rehired for the next academic year.

The respondent had no tenure rights to continued employment. Under Wisconsin statutory law a state university teacher can acquire tenure as a 'permanent' employee only after four years of year-to-year employment. Having acquired tenure, a teacher is entitled to continued employment 'during efficiency and good behavior.' A relatively new teacher without tenure, however, is under Wisconsin law entitled to nothing beyond his one-year appointment.2 There are no statu-

Page 567

tory or administrative standards defining eligibility for re-employment. State law thus clearly leaves the decision whether to rehire a nontenured teacher for another year to the unfettered discretion of university officials.

The procedural protection afforded a Wisconsin State University teacher before he is separated from the University corresponds to his job security. As a matter of statutory law, a tenured teacher cannot be 'discharged except for cause upon written charges' and pursuant to certain procedures.3 A nontenured teacher, similarly, is protected to some extent during his one-year term. Rules promulgated by the Board of Regents provide that a nontenured teacher 'dismissed' before the end of the year may have some opportunity for review of the 'dismissal.' But the Rules provide no real protection for a nontenured teacher who simply is not re-employed for the next year. He must be informed by February 1 'concerning retention or non-retention for the ensuing year.' But 'no reason for non-retention need be given. No review or appeal is provided in such case.'4

Page 568

In conformance with these Rules, the President of Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh informed the respondent before February 1, 1969, that he would not be rehired for the 1969—1970 academic year. He gave the respondent no reason for the decision and no opportunity to challenge it at any sort of hearing.

The respondent then brought this action in Federal District Court alleging that the decision not to rehire him for the next year infringed his Fourteenth Amendment rights. He attacked the decision both in substance and procedure. First, he alleged that the true reason for the decision was to punish him for certain statements critical of the University administration, and that it therefore violated his right to freedom of speech.5

Page 569

Second, he alleged that the failure of University officials to give him notice of any reason for nonretention and an opportunity for a hearing violated his right to procedural due process of law.

The District Court granted summary judgment for the respondent on the procedural issue, ordering the University officials to provide him with reasons and a hearing. 310 F.Supp. 972. The Court of Appeals, with one judge dissenting, affirmed this partial summary judgment. 446 F.2d 806. We granted certiorari. 404 U.S. 909, 92 S.Ct. 227, 30 L.Ed.2d 181. The only question presented to us at this stage in the case is whether the respondent had a constitutional right to a statement of reasons and a hearing on the University's decision not to rehire him for another year.6 We hold that he did not.

I

The requirements of procedural due process apply only to the deprivation of interests encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property. When protected interests are implicated, the right

Page 570

to some kind of prior hearing is paramount.7 But the range of interests protected by procedural due process is not infinite.'

The District Court decided that procedural due process guarantees apply in this case by assessing and balancing the weights of the particular interests involved. It concluded that the respondent's interest in re-employment at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh outweighed the University's interest in denying him re-employment summarily. 310 F.Supp., at 977—979. Undeniably, the respondent's re-employment prospects were of major concern to him—concern that we surely cannot say was insignificant. And a weighing process has long been a part of any determination of the form of hearing required in particular situations by procedural due process.8 But, to determine whether

Page 571

due process requirements apply in the first place, we must look not to the 'weight' but to the nature of the interest at stake. See Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, at 481, 92 S.Ct. 2593, at 2600, 33 L.Ed.2d 484. We must look to see if the interest is within the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property.

'Liberty' and 'property' are broad and majestic terms. They are among the '(g)reat (constitutional) concepts . . . purposely left to gather meaning from experience. . . . (T)hey relate to the whole domain of social and economic fact, and the statesmen who founded this Nation knew too well that only a stagnant society remains unchanged.' National Mutual Ins. Co. v. Tidewater Transfer Co., 337 U.S. 582, 646, 69 S.Ct. 1173, 1195, 93 L.Ed. 1556 (Frankfurter, J., dissenting). For that reason, the Court has fully and finally rejected the wooden distinction between 'rights' and 'privileges' that once seemed to govern the applicability of procedural due process rights.9 The Court has also made clear that the property interests protected by

Page 572

procedural due process extend well beyond actual ownership of real estate, chattels, or money.10 By the same token, the Court has required due process protection for deprivations of liberty beyond the sort of formal constraints imposed by the criminal process.11

Yet, while the Court has eschewed rigid or formalistic limitations on the protection of procedural due process, it has at the same time observed certain boundaries. For the words 'liberty' and 'property' in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment must be given some meaning.

II

'While this court has not attempted to define with exactness the liberty . . . guaranteed (by the Fourteenth Amendment), the term has received much consideration and some of the included things have been definitely stated. Without doubt, it denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized . . . as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.' Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399, 43 S.Ct. 625, 626, 67 L.Ed. 1042. In a Constitution for a free people, there can be no doubt that the meaning of 'liberty' must be broad indeed. See, e.g., Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 499—500, 74 S.Ct. 693, 694, 98 L.Ed. 884; Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 31 L.Ed.2d 551.

Page 573

There might be cases in which a State refused to re-employ a person under such circumstances that interests in liberty would be implicated. But this is not such a case.

The State, in declining to rehire the respondent, did not make any charge against him that...

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13727 practice notes
  • Burrell v. City University of New York, No. 94 CIV. 8711(RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 26, 1998
    ...defining element of a property interest in continued employment is "a legitimate claim of entitlement to it." Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972). Such claims must be determined according to state law. Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 344, 96 S.Ct.......
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 25, 2018
    ...those benefits." Thornton v. City of St. Helens , 425 F.3d 1158, 1164 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Bd. of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth , 408 U.S. 564, 577, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972) ). However, "[t]o have a property interest in a benefit, a person clearly must have more than an ......
  • Gifford v. Kampa, No. 2:17-CV-2421-TLN-DMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 25, 2021
    ...of a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. See Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 672 (1977); Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569 (1972). Liberty interests can arise both from the Constitution and from state law. See Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466 (1983); Meachum v. ......
  • Brown v. County of San Joaquin, No. CIV.S-83-1464 RAR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 22, 1985
    ...action occurs only if the governmental action would cause a deprivation of life, liberty, or property. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972); Goodisman v. Lytle, 724 F.2d 818 (9th Cir.1984); Powderly v. Schweiker, 704 F.2d 1092 (9th Cir.1983). In the i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13651 cases
  • Burrell v. City University of New York, No. 94 CIV. 8711(RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 26, 1998
    ...defining element of a property interest in continued employment is "a legitimate claim of entitlement to it." Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972). Such claims must be determined according to state law. Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 344, 96 S.Ct.......
  • Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. SFR Invs. Pool 1, LLC, No. 16-15962
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 25, 2018
    ...those benefits." Thornton v. City of St. Helens , 425 F.3d 1158, 1164 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Bd. of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth , 408 U.S. 564, 577, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972) ). However, "[t]o have a property interest in a benefit, a person clearly must have more than an ......
  • Gifford v. Kampa, No. 2:17-CV-2421-TLN-DMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 25, 2021
    ...of a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. See Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 672 (1977); Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569 (1972). Liberty interests can arise both from the Constitution and from state law. See Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466 (1983); Meachum v. ......
  • Brown v. County of San Joaquin, No. CIV.S-83-1464 RAR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 22, 1985
    ...action occurs only if the governmental action would cause a deprivation of life, liberty, or property. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972); Goodisman v. Lytle, 724 F.2d 818 (9th Cir.1984); Powderly v. Schweiker, 704 F.2d 1092 (9th Cir.1983). In the i......
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    • Land use planning and the environment: a casebook
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    ...challenges to governmental action must be related to some form of property interest. In Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, [408 U.S. 564, 569 (1972),] the Supreme Court held that a due process challenge to a governmental action must be predicated upon a “deprivation of interests en......
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    ...those privileges long recognized as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Board of Regents of State Colls. v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 572 (1972). hese interests all exist apart from and independent of any statutes addressing such rights. By contrast, a protected interest i......
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    ...interests that qualify for protection as “property” under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972), this recognition that the Takings Clause does not require compensation when an owner is barred from putting land to a use that......
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    ...of law"). Id. amend. V. (148.) Wash, ex rel. Seattle Title Tr. Co. v. Roberge, 278 U.S. 116, 121 (1928). (149.) Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972) ("To have a property interest in a benefit, a person clearly must have more than an abstract need or desire for it. He must have m......
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