Goss v. Lopez
419 U.S. 565 (1975)

  • Lopez, along with a bunch of other students, were suspended from their high school after it was alleged they had damaged school property. They were not given a hearing, or an opportunity to present their case.
    • Ohio law at the time said that school can suspend students without providing a hearing.
    • However, Ohio law also said that all students had a right to an education.
  • Lopez et. al. sued, claiming that the suspension had damaged their reputations and therefore denied them a liberty interest without procedural due process, which was an unconstitutional violation of the 14th Amendment.
    • In addition, Lopez et. al. argued that they had been denied a property interest because they were entitled to an education under Ohio law.
  • The Trial Court found for Lopez. The school appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Ohio had made education a right, and that created a property interest.
      • Property interests cannot be denied without due process.
      • 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.
        • There is no constitutional right to an education (See San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (523 U.S. 833 (1973)).
    • The Court found that a suspension could damage a student’s reputation and effect later educational opportunities. That would damage a student’s liberty interest to pursue further education.
      • Conversely, compare to Paul v. Davis (424 U.S. 693 (1976)), which found that there was no liberty interest in damage to someone’s reputation.
    • The Court found that due process can be quite minimal and still meet constitutional requirements. In this case, all that was required was an opportunity for the student to present his side of the story to school officials, and for the school to provide oral and written notice of the reasons for the suspension.
      • Compare to Goldberg v. Kelly (397 U.S. 254 (1970)), which found that due process required an elaborate formal hearing.
      • It appears that the amount of due process due is dependent on the size of the interests involved.
        • See Matthews v. Eldridge (424 U.S. 319 (1976)), which provides factors for the courts to consider when determining how much due process is due.