Board of Regents v. Roth

In Board of Regents v. Roth (1972) 408 U.S. 564, a university professor who did not have tenure was informed he would not be rehired; he was given no reasons nor an opportunity to challenge the decision at a hearing. The high court held the professor had not been deprived of a property or liberty interest. It noted the nonrenewal had not been based on a charge he had been guilty of dishonesty or immorality. "For 'where a person's good name, reputation, honor, or integrity is at stake because of what the government is doing to him, notice and an opportunity to be heard are essential.' In such a case, due process would accord an opportunity to refute the charge before University officials." (Roth, supra, 408 U.S. 564, 573.) The Court repeated its much earlier observation, in Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) 262 U.S. 390, 399 43 S. Ct. 625, that liberty interests guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment have not been defined with exactness, and denote far more than freedom from bodily restraint; they extend to " 'the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized . . . as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.' " (Roth, supra, 408 U.S. at p. 572 92 S. Ct. at p. 2707.) The Roth case involved the rights of a probationary professor at a public university whose contract was not renewed for a one-year term. It would stretch the concept of liberty too far to say that a person is deprived of the constitutional protection when he simply is not rehired in one job but remains free to seek another. (Roth, supra, 408 U.S. at p. 575.) Nevertheless, the court recognized, a "different case" might be presented if the nonrenewal was carried out in such a manner as to implicate a protected liberty interest, such as a decision not to rehire based on seriously damaging charges against the employee, or a decision that imposed a "stigma or other disability that foreclosed his freedom to take advantage of other employment opportunities." (Id. at p. 573 92 S. Ct. at p. 2707.)