Hortonville Independent School District No. 1 v. Hortonville Education Association

PETITIONER: Hortonville Independent School District No. 1 et al.
RESPONDENT: Hortonville Education Association et al.
LOCATION: Hortonville Area School District

DOCKET NO.: 74-1606
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Wisconsin Supreme Court

CITATION: 426 US 482 (1976)
ARGUED: Feb 23, 1976 / Feb 24, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1976
GRANTED: Oct 06, 1975

ADVOCATES:
Jack D. Walker - for petitioners
Robert H. Friebert - for respondents

Facts of the case

Teachers at the Hortonville Joint School District went on strike when negotiations over employment contracts broke down. Wisconsin law prohibited strikes by public employees. The School District invited the teachers to return to work several times, and a few teachers accepted the offer. After about two weeks of striking, the school board set disciplinary hearings for the teachers who continued to strike. An attorney for the teachers indicated that the teachers wished to be treated as a group and argued that the school board was not sufficiently impartial to be able to exercise discipline over the teachers. The attorney argued that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required an independent, unbiased decision maker. The school board still voted to terminate the teachers, but invited them to reapply for their jobs. One teacher did so and returned to work. The remaining teachers were replaced.

The fired teachers sued the school district in Wisconsin state court alleging that their termination violated their due process. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the school district, holding that due process was not violated because the teachers admitted to being on strike in violation of state law after receiving adequate notice and a hearing. The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Due Process Clause required the teachers' conduct and the school board’s decision to be evaluated by an impartial decision maker.

Question

Does Due Process prevent a school district from firing teachers engaged in an illegal strike, even though they have exclusive authority to do so under state law?

Media for Hortonville Independent School District No. 1 v. Hortonville Education Association

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 23, 1976 (Part 1) in Hortonville Independent School District No. 1 v. Hortonville Education Association
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1976 (Part 2) in Hortonville Independent School District No. 1 v. Hortonville Education Association

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 1976 in Hortonville Independent School District No. 1 v. Hortonville Education Association

Warren E. Burger:

I have four opinions to announce for the court.

In 74-1606 Hortonville Joint School District against Hortonville Educational Association.

For reasons stated in an opinion filed with the clerk today, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings, not inconsistent with our opinion.

Mr. Justice Stewart joined by Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Marshall filed a dissenting opinion.