Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth,
408 U.S. 564 (1972)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972)

Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth

No. 71-162

Argued January 18, 1972

Decided June 29, 1972

408 U.S. 564


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. 408 U. S. 569-579.

446 F.2d 806, reversed and remanded.

Page 408 U. S. 565

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BURGER C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 408 U. S. 603. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 408 U. S. 579. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS, J., joined, post, p. 408 U. S. 604. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 408 U. S. 587. POWELL, J., took no part in the decision of the case

Page 408 U. S. 566

Primary Holding

There is no constitutionally protected property interest for an employee of a public educational institution in an expectation of future employment beyond what is expressly stated in the employment contract.


Roth taught at Wisconsin State University for a year as a non-tenured instructor. His contract did not provide him any right to employment with the university after it expired. Roth was not rehired after the year ended, so he sued the university Board of Regents on the grounds that he should have received notice and a hearing. He argued that the absence of these procedures infringed on his property right in his job and his liberty interest in making statements adverse to the university, which he argued were the reason why he was not rehired. He received summary judgment in the lower courts.



  • Potter Stewart (Author)
  • Warren Earl Burger
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist

There was no apparent incursion on a liberty interest, and the property right was limited to what the contract provided. It lasted only one year, and the property right did not extend to being offered another contract. Future employment does not give rise to a constitutionally protected property interest unless the contract provides for it. The university did not need to offer notice or a hearing.


  • Thurgood Marshall (Author)

To comply with due process requirements, the university should have told the professor why it did not rehire him for the following term. This would alleviate the risk that a state entity might act capriciously or unreasonably toward its employees. An employee may not be terminated for any reason, or for no reason, if the contract does not guarantee future employment. Property rights extend to government jobs, and any person may receive a government job unless the government has a reason to deny it. The university would not be overly burdened by briefly outlining the reasons why a certain employee is terminated or not offered future employment.


  • William Orville Douglas (Author)


  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)
  • William Orville Douglas


  • Warren Earl Burger (Author)

Case Commentary

Although the outcome in this case seems relatively intuitive, its extensive discussion of the doctrine on procedural due process can guide courts on many decisions that are less straightforward because of the clear rules that it establishes for finding liberty and property rights.

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