Board of Regents v. Roth Case Brief

Summary of Board of Regents v. Roth (1972)

Relevant Facts: Roth hired to teach at Wisconsin State for one year, then told he wouldn't be retained. Demanded to know why, which was denied, and he had no opportunity to challenge it. The school president's action complied with state law and university rules.

Issue: Under constitutional law, did the failure to provide a state employee with a statement of reasons or a hearing to challenge a decision to decline rehiring that employee violate any procedural due process rights?

Holding: No. The range protected by procedural due process is not infinite.

Court's Rationale/Reasoning: The court based its decision on two major principles within the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment. These two principles were whether there was any depravation of liberty or property in the decision to not renew Mr. Roth's contract.

In regard to the liberty interest, the Court held that the university did not base its decision on a negative charge, nor did it attempt to harm the respondent's name or character within his community. However, Roth argued that when he looked for future employment and they asked him why he was not rehired, he would have no proof that he was “wrongfully” unrenewed. His reasoning was denied and the lack of infringement upon his “good name, reputation, honor, or integrity” caused the Court to deny his claim. (via Goldberg decision). Essentially, there is no liberty lost when a person winds up the same way they were, to find whatever job they wanted, upon being fired.

The second aspect of the 14th Amendment in question was whether David Roth had a property right for his position. The contract for Roth's position had no clause that guaranteed him a position with the University of Wisconsin. Moreover, the ending of the contract was June 30. Because he was not tenured, he was not granted a hearing nor a summary judgment. His property right, or lack thereof, resulted in the Court reversing the case and ultimately leaving Roth unemployed.

Rule: School employees with tenure or “continuing contract status” or who are fired for stigmatizing reasons have a right under the 14th Amendment to procedural due process.

This due process includes notice of the charges and a fair hearing before an unbiased party that includes the right to counsel, to present evidence, and to call and cross-examine witnesses.

Important Dicta: No.


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