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Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth

    Brief Fact Summary. David Roth, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor with a one-year contract was not retained for a second year at the school. Upon release he was not provided with a reason or hearing in respect to not being retained for the following year.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The requirements of procedural due process, guaranteeing the right to adequate notice and a hearing concerning the denial of a constitutional right before the it can be denied, only applies to the denial of life, liberty and property. The burden for showing the existence of one of these rights, thus guaranteeing notice and a hearing, is left to the individual asserting the right, and once the individual meets this burden the Due Process Clause is triggered and rights are guaranteed by the State under the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Facts. In 1968 David Roth (Respondent) was hired as an assistant professor of political science at Wisconsin State University – Oshkosh. Respondent was hired for a fixed term of one academic year. Upon completing this term Respondent was informed that he would not be rehired for the next academic year. Respondent had no tenure rights to continued employment. Only after four years of year-to-year employment did one become a tenured faculty member. The decision to rehire is left to the discretion of University officials. While the non-tenured faculty member has no guarantees following their one-year, they are afforded similar protections as tenured faculty in the course of their year. A non-tenured faculty member does not need to be given a reason for not being retained the following year. There is also no review or appeal of University decisions. The Respondent then brought this action in federal district court alleging that the decision not to rehire him for the next year infringed h
    is Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. He further alleged that not being retained was to punish him for statements critical of the University. Further, 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. The District Court ordered the University officials to provide Respondent with a hearing and reasons why he was not being retained.

    Issue. Does the respondent have a constitutional right to a statement of reasons and a hearing on the University’s decision not to rehire him for another year?

    Held. No. The requirements of procedural due process apply only to the deprivation of interest encompassed within the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of liberty and property. When protected interests are implicated the right to some kind of hearing is paramount. The Respondent stretches the protection of liberty concept too far to suggest that an individual is deprived of liberty when he simply is not rehired in one job but remains free to seek another.
    Property interests, are not created by the Constitution, but created by existing rules or understandings between the parties. The Respondent did have a property interest in employment for the term of his one-year contract. As there was no provision guaranteeing renewal in Respondent’s contract, Respondent has not sufficiently met his burden showing the existence of a right to another year at the University. As Respondent cannot show that he had a property interest in the job, the University was not required, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, to give Respondent a hearing upon non-renewal.

    Dissent. Disagrees with the conclusion of the Court, and instead takes the view that every citizen who applies for a government job is entitled to the job unless the government can establish some reason for denying the employment to that individual. This is the property right as protected by the United States Constitution. A liberty right is the liberty to work and is secured by the Fourteenth Amendment. It is not burdensome to provide reasons to give reasons when reasons exist. Whenever an employment decision is made there should be reason for this decision. It is only where the government acts improperly that procedural due process is truly burdensome, and is precisely when it is most necessary.

    Discussion. This case explains quite clearly the framework for procedural due process. It provides a clear and concise definition of a liberty and property right. It further explains the depth at which a claim must be made in order to rise to guarantee procedural due process. The dissent makes an argument that all government should be open, and therefore reasons for adverse actions should be provided at all time.


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