Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth

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David Roth


Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth


Plaintiff was an assistant professor of political science at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh. He was hired for a fixed term of one academic year. The plaintiff complete the term and was informed that he would not be rehired for the next academic year.

Relevant Law

Under Wisconsin statutory law a state university teacher can acquire tenure as a permanent employee after four years of year-to-year employment. After acquiring tenure, a teacher is entitled to continued employment "during efficiency and good behavior." Nothing in the Wisconsin statute says that one year appointments have to be renewed. Also, there is not administrative standards to determine eligibility for re-employment. Wisconsin State University has rules that say that a non-tenured professor that is dismissed before the end of the one year can have some opportunities to review the dismissal. No reason for retention beyond the first year must be given.

Procedural History

This action was originally brought in Federal district court.


First the court tries to decide if the right to re-employment in this case is protected by the 14th amendment (life, liberty, or property)

  • liberty - the court concludes that in this case the state did not make the decision in a way that questioned his reputation, honor, or morality. Also there was no imposition of stigma or other disability on the plaintiff by not giving his employment back. Because of this, there is no liberty being witheld here without process.
  • property right - the court claims that "Property rights are not created by the Constitution. Rather, they are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law - rules or understandings that secure certain benefits and that support claims of entitlement to those benefits." In this case the property interest is defined "by the terms of his appointment." The terms actually do not define the terms of the renewal of the contract whatsoever.

The court concludes that since there is no property or liberty interest, the question of process does not even have to even be addressed.

Douglas Dissent

Justice Douglas claims that since a Fist Amendment claim against the school, the State should bear the burden to prove that the speech was not protected. Furthermore, he claims that the non-renewal of a teacher's contract is also an entitlement, even if the teacher does not have tenure.

Marshall Dissent

Marshall also thinks that jobs provided by the states are entitlements. "When something as valuable as the opportunity to work is at stake, the government may not reward some citizens and not others without demonstrating that its actions are fair and equitable." Marshall claims that it is not burdensome to give a reason of why employment is denied.