Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth

PETITIONER: Board of Regents of State Colleges
LOCATION: University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

DOCKET NO.: 71-162
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 408 US 564 (1972)
ARGUED: Jan 18, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1972

Charles A. Bleck - for petitioners
Steven H. Steinglass - for respondent

Facts of the case

David Roth was hired under a one-year contract to teach political science at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh. He was informed that he would not be rehired at the end of his contract. No reasons were given for this decision. Roth brought suit against the university claiming that (1) the real reason for his non-retention was his criticism of the university administration violating his right to free speech protected by the Fourteenth Amendment; and (2) the university's failure to advise him of the reason for its decision violated his right to procedural due process. Roth won on the second claim. It was upheld on appeal.


Does the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment require that a state university provide a one-year contract employee a hearing and reasons when he is not retained after the termination of his contract?

Media for Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 18, 1972 in Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in number 71-162, Board Of Regents Of State Colleges against Roth.

Charles A. Bleck:

Mr. Chief Justice, Your Honor, the petitioners in this case are the Board Of Regents Of the State Colleges, they are now known as the Board Of Regents Of State University and actually to be absolutely accurate, they are now known as the Board Of Regents Of the University of Wisconsin System.

The other petitioner in this case, is the President of the Wisconsin State University at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The respondent, David F. Roth was the employee of the Board of Regents at Oshkosh State University and I believe the enrollment at that time was been a neighborhood of 11,000 or 12,000 students.

Doctor Roth was in his first full-time teaching position.

He was hired by the board as an assistant professor for the academic year, 1968-1969.

Potter Stewart:

You are calling Doctor, is he a Ph.D?

Charles A. Bleck:

Yes, sir, he is.

Potter Stewart:

And where is he now?

Charles A. Bleck:

Your Honor, I would -- I've heard but I'd -- much rather you ask the other side because I would mind to give you any misinformation.

I think they know and I just -- and just here say I might -- Doctor Roth was hired for the academic year, 1968-1969.

He was hired under a written contract, a contract that had a fixed term, expressly fixing a term for September 1, 1968 through June 30, 1969.

The contract also expressly referred to Section 37.31 of the Wisconsin Statute which is our state tenure statute.

This statute at that time provided that if a probationary teacher is hired for four consecutive years, he'll acquire tenure or permanent status.

When Doctor Roth was hired, there was a board rule in effect, in fact, it had been passed on March 10th, 1967, which provided that in the case of a probationary teacher, no reasons will be given for non-renewal and there will be no hearing provided by the University on the question of non-renewal.

This same rule also provided that in each case of non-renewal, the professor or the employee will receive notice of that fact by February 1st.

So in effect, he has from February 1st to start looking for a new position.

The procedure at Oshkosh State University in regard to renewal or non-renewal of the probationary contract was that the tenure committee of the particular department would first meet and vote on whether to recommend retention or non-retention.

In this case, it was the tenure committee of the Department of Political Science.

That recommendation then flows up to the Dean, who also makes a recommendation and from there it flows up to the Vice-President, in-charge of academic affairs, and then to the President for his decision.

In this particular instance, the tenure committee met and voted to recommend retention of Doctor Roth on December 17th, 1968.

Subsequently, and about five weeks later, Dean Arthur Darkin (ph) approached several members of the tenure committee and asked them to review this recommendation.

On January 27th, 1969, the tenure committee did meet again, did review their previous recommendation and at this time, voted for non-retention.

This recommendation then flowed up to the Dean, the Vice-President and to the President who made his decision not to renew Doctor Roth's contract for the ensuing academic year.

This notice was given on January 30, 1969.

Doctor Roth on February 14th, 1969, filed his complaint in the District Court seeking declaratory judgment and seeking reinstatement or a contract for the ensuing academic year.

On May 16th, 1969, both parties moved for summary judgment and on March 12th, 1970, the District Court granted the plaintiffs, Doctor Roth's motion in part.

The decision of the District Court held, one, that either the State University would have to give Doctor Roth a contract for the next academic year or in the alternative that the State University could give Doctor Roth a written notice of reason for non-renewal and a hearing on those reasons.

This decision was appealed to the Seventh Circuit which affirmed the District Court on July 1st, 1971.

Although I have explained the fact rather extensively, it is my opinion, Your Honor, that the fact in the Roth case, are absolutely irrelevant at this time.