|Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth
[ Stewart ]
[ Douglas ]
[ Marshall ]
Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
Respondent Roth, like Sindermann in the companion case, had no tenure under Wisconsin law and, unlike Sindermann, he had had only one year of teaching at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh -- where during 1968-1969 he had been Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies. Though Roth was rated by the faculty as an excellent teacher, he had publicly criticized the administration for suspending an entire group of 94 black students without determining individual guilt. He also criticized the university's regime as being authoritarian and autocratic. He used his classroom to discuss what was being done about the [p580] black episode; and one day, instead of meeting his class, he went to the meeting of the Board of Regents.
In this case, as in Sindermann, an action was started in Federal District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [n1] claiming in part that the decision of the school authorities not to rehire was in retaliation for his expression of opinion. The District Court, in partially granting Roth's motion for summary judgment, held that the Fourteenth Amendment required the university to give a hearing to teachers whose contracts were not to be renewed and to give reasons for its action. 310 F.Supp. 972, 983. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 446 F.2d 806.
Professor Will Herberg, of Drew University, in writing of "academic freedom" recently said:
[I]t is sometimes conceived as a basic constitutional right guaranteed and protected under the First Amendment.
But, of course, this is not the case. Whereas a man's right to speak out on this or that may be guaranteed and protected, he can have no imaginable human or constitutional right to remain a member of a university faculty. Clearly, the right to academic freedom is an acquired one, yet an acquired right of such value to society that, in the minds of many, it has verged upon the constitutional.
Washington Sunday Star, Jan. 23, 1972, B-3, col. 1. [p581]
There may not be a constitutional right to continued employment if private schools and colleges are involved. But Prof. Herberg's view is not correct when public schools move against faculty members. For the First Amendment, applicable to the States by reason of the Fourteenth Amendment, protects the individual against state action when it comes to freedom of speech and of press and the related freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment; and the Fourteenth protects "liberty" and "property" as stated by the Court in Sindermann.
No more direct assault on academic freedom can be imagined than for the school authorities to be allowed to discharge a teacher because of his or her philosophical, political, or ideological beliefs. The same may well be true of private schools, if, through the device of financing or other umbilical cords, they become instrumentalities of the State. Mr. Justice Frankfurter stated the constitutional theory in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 261-262 (concurring in result):
Progress in the natural sciences is not remotely confined to findings made in the laboratory. Insights into the mysteries of nature are born of hypothesis and speculation. The more so is this true in the pursuit of understanding in the groping endeavors of what are called the social sciences, the concern of which is man and society. The problems that are the respective preoccupations of anthropology, economics, law, psychology, sociology and related areas of scholarship are merely departmentalized dealing, by way of manageable division of analysis, with interpenetrating aspects of holistic perplexities. For society's good -- if understanding be an essential need of society -- inquiries into these problems, speculations about them, stimulation in others of reflection upon them, must be left as unfettered [p582] as possible. Political power must abstain from intrusion into this activity of freedom, pursued in the interest of wise government and the people's wellbeing, except for reasons that are exigent and obviously compelling.
We repeated that warning in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 603:
Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.
When a violation of First Amendment rights is alleged, the reasons for dismissal or for nonrenewal of an employment contract must be examined to see if the reasons given are only a cloak for activity or attitudes protected by the Constitution. A statutory analogy is present under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. While discharges of employees for "cause" are permissible (Fibreboard Corp. v. NLRB, 379 U.S. 203, 217), discharges because of an employee's union activities are banned by § 8(a)(3), 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(3). So the search is to ascertain whether the stated ground was the real one or only a pretext. See J. P. Stevens Co. v. NLRB, 380 F.2d 292, 300.
In the case of teachers whose contracts are not renewed, tenure is not the critical issue. In the Sweezy case, the teacher, whose First Amendment rights we honored, had no tenure, but was only a guest lecturer. In the Keyishian case, one of the petitioners (Keyishian himself) had only a "one-year-term contract" that was not renewed. 385 U.S. at 385 U.S. 592"]592. In 592. In Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, one of the petitioners was [p583] a teacher whose "contract for the ensuing school year was not renewed" (id. at 483) and two others who refused to comply were advised that it made "impossible their reemployment as teachers for the following school year." Id. at 484. The oath required in Keyishian and the affidavit listing memberships required in Shelton were both, in our view, in violation of First Amendment rights. Those cases mean that conditioning renewal of a teacher's contract upon surrender of First Amendment rights is beyond the power of a State.
There is sometimes a conflict between a claim for First Amendment protection and the need for orderly administration of the school system, as we noted in Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563, 569. That is one reason why summary judgments in this class of cases are seldom appropriate. Another reason is that careful factfinding is often necessary to know whether the given reason for nonrenewal of a teacher's contract is the real reason or a feigned one.
It is said that, since teaching in a public school is a privilege, the State can grant it or withhold it on conditions. We have, however, rejected that thesis in numerous cases, e.g., Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 374. See Van Alstyne, The Demise of the Right-Privilege Distinction in Constitutional Law, 81 Harv.L.Rev. 1439 (1968). In Hannegan v. Esquire, Inc., 327 U.S. 146, 156, we said that Congress may not, by withdrawal of mailing privileges, place limitations on freedom of speech which it could not do constitutionally if done directly. We said in American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 402, that freedom of speech was abridged when the only restraint on its exercise was withdrawal of the privilege to invoke the facilities of the National Labor Relations Board. In Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U.S. 183, we held that an applicant could not be denied the opportunity [p584] for public employment because he had exercised his First Amendment rights. And in Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, we held that a denial af a tax exemption unless one gave up his First Amendment rights was an abridgment of Fourteenth Amendment rights.
As we held in Speiser v. Randall, supra, when a State proposes to deny a privilege to one who it alleges has engaged in unprotected speech, Due Process requires that the State bear the burden of proving that the speech was not protected. "[T]he ‘protection of the individual against arbitrary action' . . . [is] the very essence of due process," Slochower v. Board of Education, 350 U.S. 551, 559, but where the State is allowed to act secretly behind closed doors and without any notice to those who are affected by its actions, there is no check against the possibility of such "arbitrary action."
Moreover, where "important interests" of the citizen are implicated (Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539) they are not to be denied or taken away without due process. Ibid. Bell v. Burson involved a driver's license. But also included are disqualification for unemployment compensation (Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398), discharge from public employment (Slochower v. Board of Education, supra), denial of tax exemption (Speiser v. Randall, supra), and withdrawal of welfare benefits (Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254). And see Wisconsin v. Constantineau, 400 U.S. 433. We should now add that nonrenewal of a teacher's contract, whether or not he has tenure, is an entitlement of the same importance and dignity.
Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886, is not opposed. It held that a cook employed in a cafeteria in a military installation was not entitled to a hearing prior [p585] to the withdrawal of her access to the facility. Her employer was prepared to employ her at another of its restaurants, the withdrawal was not likely to injure her reputation, and her employment opportunities elsewhere were not impaired. The Court held that the very limited individual interest in this one Job did not outweigh the Government's authority over an important federal military establishment. Nonrenewal of a teacher's contract is tantamount in effect to a dismissal, and the consequences may be enormous. Nonrenewal can be a blemish that turns into a permanent scar and effectively limits any chance the teacher has of being rehired as a teacher, at least in his State.
If this nonrenewal implicated the First Amendment, then Roth was deprived of constitutional rights because his employment was conditioned on a surrender of First Amendment rights; and, apart from the First Amendment, he was denied due process when he received no notice and hearing of the adverse action contemplated against him. Without a statement of the reasons for the discharge and an opportunity to rebut those reasons -- both of which were refused by petitioners -- there is no means short of a lawsuit to safeguard the right not to be discharged for the exercise of First Amendment guarantees.
The District Court held, 310 F.Supp. at 979-980:
Substantive constitutional protection for a university professor against nonretention in violation of his First Amendment rights or arbitrary nonretention is useless without procedural safeguards. I hold that minimal procedural due process includes a statement of the reasons why the university intends not to retain the professor, notice of a hearing at which he may respond to the stated reasons, and a hearing if the professor appears at the appointed [p586] time and place. At such a hearing, the professor must have a reasonable opportunity to submit evidence relevant to the stated reasons. The burden of going forward and the burden of proof rests with the professor. Only if he makes a reasonable showing that the stated reasons are wholly inappropriate as a basis for decision or that they are wholly without basis in fact would the university administration become obliged to show that the stated reasons are not inappropriate or that they have a basis in fact.
It was that procedure that the Court of Appeals approved. 446 F.2d at 809-810. The Court of Appeals also concluded that, though the § 1983 action was pending in court, the court should stay its hand until the academic procedures had been completed. [n2] As stated by the Court of Appeals in Sindermann v. Perry, 430 F.2d 939 (CA5):
School-constituted review bodies are the most appropriate forums for initially determining issues of this type, both for the convenience of the parties and in order to bring academic expertise to bear in resolving the nice issues of administrative discipline, teacher competence and school policy, which so frequently must be balanced in reaching a proper determination.
Id. at 944-945.
That is a permissible course for district courts to take, though it does not relieve them of the final determination [p587] whether nonrenewal of the teacher's contract was in retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights or a denial of due process.
Accordingly, I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
1. Section 1983 reads as follows:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, hall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
2. Such a procedure would not be contrary to the well settled rule that § 1983 actions do not require exhaustion of other remedies. See, e.g., Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249 (1971); Damico v. California, 389 U.S. 416 (1967); McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668 (1963); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961). One of the allegations in the complaint was that respondent was denied any effective state remedy, and the District Court's staying its hand thus furthered, rather than thwarted, the purposes of § 1983.