Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill Parma Board of Education v. Donnelly Loudermill v. Cleveland Board of Education, Nos. 83-1362

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITE
PartiesCLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION, Petitioner, v. James LOUDERMILL et al. PARMA BOARD OF EDUCATION, Petitioner, v. Richard DONNELLY et al. James LOUDERMILL, Petitioner, v. CLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION et al
Decision Date19 March 1985
Docket NumberNos. 83-1362,83-1363 and 83-6392

470 U.S. 532
105 S.Ct. 1487
84 L.Ed.2d 494
CLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION, Petitioner,

v.

James LOUDERMILL et al. PARMA BOARD OF EDUCATION, Petitioner, v. Richard DONNELLY et al. James LOUDERMILL, Petitioner, v. CLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION et al.

Nos. 83-1362, 83-1363 and 83-6392.
Argued Dec. 3, 1984.
Decided March 19, 1985.
Syllabus

In No. 83-1362, petitioner Board of Education hired respondent Loudermill as a security guard. On his job application Loudermill stated that he had never been convicted of a felony. Subsequently, upon discovering that he had in fact been convicted of grand larceny, the Board dismissed him for dishonesty in filling out the job application. He was not afforded an opportunity to respond to the dishonesty charge or to challenge the dismissal. Under Ohio law, Loudermill was a "classified civil servant," and by statute, as such an employee, could be terminated only for cause and was entitled to administrative review of the dismissal. He filed an appeal with the Civil Service Commission, which, after hearings before a referee and the Commission, upheld the dismissal some nine months after the appeal had been filed. Although the Commission's decision was subject to review in the state courts, Loudermill instead filed suit in Federal District Court, alleging that the Ohio statute providing for administrative review was unconstitutional on its face because it provided no opportunity for a discharged employee to respond to charges against him prior to removal, thus depriving him of liberty and property without due process. It was also alleged that the statute was unconstitutional as applied because discharged employees were not given sufficiently prompt postremoval hearings. The District Court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, holding that because the very statute that created the property right in continued employment also specified the procedures for discharge, and because those procedures were followed, Loudermill was, by definition, afforded all the process due; that the post-termination hearings also adequately protected Loudermill's property interest; and that in light of the Commission's crowded docket the delay in processing his appeal was constitutionally acceptable. In No. 83-1363, petitioner Board of Education fired respondent Donnelly from his job as a bus mechanic because he had

Page 533

failed an eye examination. He appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which ordered him reinstated, but without backpay. He then filed a complaint in Federal District Court essentially identical to Loudermill's, and the court dismissed for failure to state a claim. On a consolidated appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed in part and remanded, holding that both respondents had been deprived of due process and that the compelling private interest in retaining employment, combined with the value of presenting evidence prior to dismissal, outweighed the added administrative burden of a pretermination hearing. But with regard to the alleged deprivation of liberty and Loudermill's 9-month wait for an administrative decision, the court affirmed the District Court, finding no constitutional violation.

Held: All the process that is due is provided by a pretermination opportunity to respond, coupled with posttermination administrative procedures as provided by the Ohio statute; since respondents alleged that they had no chance to respond, the District Court erred in dismissing their complaints for failure to state a claim. Pp. 538-548.

(a) The Ohio statute plainly supports the conclusion that respondents possess property rights in continued employment. The Due Process Clause provides that the substantive rights of life, liberty, and property cannot be deprived except pursuant to constitutionally adequate procedures. The categories of substance and procedure are distinct. "Property" cannot be defined by the procedures provided for its deprivation. Pp. 538-541.

(b) The principle that under the Due Process Clause an individual must be given an opportunity for a hearing before he is deprived of any significant property interest, requires "some kind of hearing" prior to the discharge of an employee who has a constitutionally protected property interest in his employment. The need for some form of pretermination hearing is evident from a balancing of the competing interests at stake: the private interest in retaining employment, the governmental interests in expeditious removal of unsatisfactory employees and the avoidance of administrative burdens, and the risk of an erroneous termination. Pp. 542-545.

(c) The pretermination hearing need not definitively resolve the propriety of the discharge, but should be an initial check against mistaken decisions—essentially a determination of whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges against the employee are true and support the proposed action. The essential requirements of due process are notice and an opportunity to respond. Pp. 545-546.

(d) The delay in Loudermill's administrative proceedings did not constitute a separate constitutional violation. The Due Process Clause

Page 534

requires provision of a hearing "at a meaningful time," and here the delay stemmed in part from the thoroughness of the procedures. Pp. 546-547.

721 F.2d 550 (6 Cir.1983), affirmed and remanded.

James G. Wyman, Cleveland, Ohio, for petitioners in Nos. 83-1362 and 83-1363 and the respondents in No. 83-6392.

Robert M. Fertel, Cleveland, Ohio, for respondents in Nos. 83-1362 and 83-1363 and the petitioner in No. 83-6392.

Page 535

Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

In these cases we consider what pretermination process must be accorded a public employee who can be discharged only for cause.

I

In 1979 the Cleveland Board of Education, petitioner in No. 83-1362, hired respondent James Loudermill as a security guard. On his job application, Loudermill stated that he had never been convicted of a felony. Eleven months later, as part of a routine examination of his employment records, the Board discovered that in fact Loudermill had been convicted of grand larceny in 1968. By letter dated November 3, 1980, the Board's Business Manager informed Loudermill that he had been dismissed because of his dishonesty in filling out the employment application. Loudermill was not afforded an opportunity to respond to the charge of dishonesty or to challenge his dismissal. On November 13, the Board adopted a resolution officially approving the discharge.

Under Ohio law, Loudermill was a "classified civil servant." Ohio Rev.Code Ann. § 124.11 (1984). Such employees can be terminated only for cause, and may obtain administrative review if discharged. § 124.34. Pursuant to this provision, Loudermill filed an appeal with the Cleveland Civil Service Commission on November 12. The Commission appointed a referee, who held a hearing on January 29, 1981. Loudermill argued that he had thought that his 1968 larceny conviction was for a misdemeanor rather than a felony. The referee recommended reinstatement. On July 20, 1981, the

Page 536

full Commission heard argument and orally announced that it would uphold the dismissal. Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law followed on August 10, and Loudermill's attorneys were advised of the result by mail on August 21.

Although the Commission's decision was subject to judicial review in the state courts, Loudermill instead brought the present suit in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The complaint alleged that § 124.34 was unconstitutional on its face because it did not provide the employee an opportunity to respond to the charges against him prior to removal. As a result, discharged employees were deprived of liberty and property without due process. The complaint also alleged that the provision was unconstitutional as applied because discharged employees were not given sufficiently prompt postremoval hearings.

Before a responsive pleading was filed, the District Court dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. See Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 12(b)(6). It held that because the very statute that created the property right in continued employment also specified the procedures for discharge, and because those procedures were followed, Loudermill was, by definition, afforded all the process due. The post-termination hearing also adequately protected Loudermill's liberty interests. Finally, the District Court concluded that, in light of the Commission's crowded docket, the delay in processing Loudermill's administrative appeal was constitutionally acceptable. App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 83-1362, pp. A36-A42.

The other case before us arises on similar facts and followed a similar course. Respondent Richard Donnelly was a bus mechanic for the Parma Board of Education. In August 1977, Donnelly was fired because he had failed an eye examination. He was offered a chance to retake the examination but did not do so. Like Loudermill, Donnelly appealed to the Civil Service Commission. After a year of wrangling about the timeliness of his appeal, the Commission heard

Page 537

the case. It ordered Donnelly reinstated, though without backpay.1 In a complaint essentially identical to Loudermill's, Donnelly challenged the constitutionality of the dismissal procedures. The District Court dismissed for failure to state a claim, relying on its opinion in Loudermill.

The District Court denied a joint motion to alter or amend its judgment,2 and the cases were consolidated for appeal. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed in part and remanded. 721 F.2d 550 (1983). After rejecting arguments that the actions were barred by failure to exhaust administrative remedies and by res judicata—arguments that are not renewed here—the Court of Appeals found that both respondents had...

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6507 practice notes
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register May 22, 2008
    • May 22, 2008
    ...and an opportunity to respond before being deprived of a protected property or liberty interest. Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, (1985). However, an applicant does not have a protected liberty or property interest sufficient to warrant notice and opportunity for a hearin......
  • Hunter v. Supreme Court of New Jersey, Civ. No. 96-848 (WGB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • August 27, 1996
    ...be given an opportunity for a hearing before he is deprived of any significant property interest.'" Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 541, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 1492, 84 L.Ed.2d 494 (1985) quoting Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 379, 91 S.Ct. 780, 786, 28 L.Ed.2d 113 (1971)......
  • 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
    ...procedural protections, such as the ability to obtain consent to the HOA sales from FHFA. See Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill , 470 U.S. 532, 542, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 84 L.Ed.2d 494 (1985) ; City of W. Covina v. Perkins , 525 U.S. 234, 242, 119 S.Ct. 678, 142 L.Ed.2d 636 (1999). SFR’s argu......
  • Hadad v. Croucher, No. 1:87 CV 1211.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • January 28, 1997
    ...are true and support the proposed action." Duchesne, 849 F.2d at 1007, quoting Loudermill, 470 U.S. at 545-46, 105 S.Ct. at 1495, 84 L.Ed.2d 494, 505-07. Duchesne envisioned that a partial post-termination hearing would follow to correct and lend itself to the employee's ability to prove wr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6494 cases
  • Hunter v. Supreme Court of New Jersey, Civ. No. 96-848 (WGB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • August 27, 1996
    ...be given an opportunity for a hearing before he is deprived of any significant property interest.'" Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 541, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 1492, 84 L.Ed.2d 494 (1985) quoting Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 379, 91 S.Ct. 780, 786, 28 L.Ed.2d 113 (1971)......
  • 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
    ...procedural protections, such as the ability to obtain consent to the HOA sales from FHFA. See Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill , 470 U.S. 532, 542, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 84 L.Ed.2d 494 (1985) ; City of W. Covina v. Perkins , 525 U.S. 234, 242, 119 S.Ct. 678, 142 L.Ed.2d 636 (1999). SFR’s argu......
  • Hadad v. Croucher, No. 1:87 CV 1211.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • January 28, 1997
    ...are true and support the proposed action." Duchesne, 849 F.2d at 1007, quoting Loudermill, 470 U.S. at 545-46, 105 S.Ct. at 1495, 84 L.Ed.2d 494, 505-07. Duchesne envisioned that a partial post-termination hearing would follow to correct and lend itself to the employee's ability to prove wr......
  • Thornton v. Barnes, No. 88-2464
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • December 4, 1989
    ...Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 250, 103 S.Ct. 1741, 1748, 75 L.Ed.2d 813 (1983); see also Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 541, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 1492, 84 L.Ed.2d 494 (1985); Archie v. City of Racine, 847 F.2d 1211, 1217 (7th Cir.1988) (en banc), cert. denied, --- U.S. -......
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9 books & journal articles
  • Schoolhouse Property.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 5, March 2022
    • March 1, 2022
    ...of an individual's labor, such as money, a house, or a license to practice law"). (11.) See, e.g., Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 538, 542-43 (1985) (establishing that government employees, including, in this case, public-school security guards, are entitled to due proc......
  • Dog Process or Due Pupcess? Federal Court Misses Opportunity to Modernize Pet Due Process Jurisprudence: Lunon v. Botsford.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 86 Nbr. 4, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...1992). (71) 424 U.S. 319 (1976). (72) Id. at 335. (73) CHEMERINSKY, supra note 52, at 630; see also Cleveland Bd. of Educ. V. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 562 (1985) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting) ("The balance is simply an ad hoc weighing which depends to a great extent upon how the Court subjec......
  • The Supreme Court and the Continuing Deconstitutionalization of Public Personnel Management
    • United States
    • Review of Public Personnel Administration Nbr. 29-1, March 2009
    • March 1, 2009
    ...State University v. American Association of University Professors, 526 U.S. 124 (1999).Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985).Cooper, P. J. (1982). Due process, the Burger court, and public administration. Southern Review of Public Administration, 6, 43-65.Developme......
  • Federal Law Against Age and Disability Discrimination Meets the Dignity of the States
    • United States
    • Review of Public Personnel Administration Nbr. 34-1, March 2014
    • March 1, 2014
    ...PL. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (1964).Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 623 (1974).Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985).Cox, R., & Pecquet, J. (2012, December). Senate rejects united nations treaty for disabled rights in a 61-38 vote. The Hill. Retrieved......
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