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

  • Roth was hired on a one-year contract as a professor at Wisconsin State University. When the year was up, he was told his contract wasn’t going to be renewed.
    • The school did not give him a reason for why they weren’t rehiring him, and did not provide any opportunity to challenge his dismissal.
    • Roth believed he wasn’t rehired because he had made public statements critical of the school.
  • Roth sued, claiming that he had been denied procedural due process, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, because he wasn’t given a hearing to challenge his dismissal.
    • Since it was a State school, it was technically a government job, which allowed Roth to sue for due process claims.
  • The US Supreme Court found that Roth was not constitutionally entitled to a hearing.
    • The US Supreme Court found that in order to require procedural due process, a person must show that they were denied a liberty interest or a property interest.
    • In this case, the Court found that Roth had no property interest in the job because he didn’t have a ‘right’ to work for the school, it was only a ‘privilege’.
      • Roth was not entitled to keep his job, so he lost nothing by being dismissed.
      • The Court noted that property interests are not normally created by the Constitution, but they are created by an independent source such as State Statutes or rules entitle a citizen to certain benefits. In this case, there was nothing in State law that said Roth had any right to keep his job.
    • The Court also found that Roth had not been denied any liberty interest because he was free to seek other employment and had no stigma or disability because of not being rehired.
  • Compare to Goldberg v. Kelly (397 U.S. 254 (1970)), which found that people are entitled to welfare payments, and therefore it is a denial of procedural due process to change their benefits without a hearing.
    • The courts have been inconsistent on what exactly defines a property interest, but a good rule of thumb is whether there is “a reasonable expectation to continued receipt of a benefit.”