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MARSHALL, J., dissenting
It may be argued that to provide procedural due process to all public employees or prospective employees would place an intolerable burden on the machinery of government. Cf. Goldberg v. Kelly, supra. The short answer to that argument is that it is not burdensome to give reasons when reasons exist. Whenever an application for employment is denied, an employee is discharged, or a decision not to rehire an employee is made, there should be some reason for the decision. It can scarcely be argued that government would be crippled by a requirement that the reason be communicated to the person most directly affected by the government's action.
Where there are numerous applicants for jobs, it is likely that few will choose to demand reasons for not being hired. But, if the demand for reasons is exceptionally great, summary procedures can be devised that would provide fair and adequate information to all persons. As long as the government has a good reason
. for its actions it need not fear disclosure. It is only where the government acts improperly that procedural due process is truly burdensome. And that is precisely when it is most necessary.
It might also be argued that to require a hearing and a statement of reasons is to require a useless act, because a government bent on denying employment to one or more persons will do so regardless of the procedural hurdles that are placed in its path. Perhaps this is so, but a requirement of procedural regularity at least renders arbitrary action more difficult. Moreover, proper procedures will surely eliminate some of the arbitrariness that results, not from malice, but from innocent error. “Experience teaches ... that the affording of procedural safeguards, which by their nature serve to illuminate the underlying facts, in itself often operates to prevent erroneous decisions on the merits
MARSHALL, J., dissenting
from occurring.” Silver v. New York Stock Exchange, 373 U. S. 341, 366 (1963). When the government knows it may have to justify its decisions with sound reasons, its conduct is likely to be more cautious, careful, and correct. Professor Gellhorn put the argument well:
“In my judgment, there is no basic division of interest between the citizenry on the one hand and officialdom on the other. Both should be interested equally in the quest for procedural safeguards. I echo the late Justice JACKSON in saying: 'Let it not be overlooked that due process of law is not for the sole benefit of an accused. It is the best insurance for the Government itself against those blunders which leave lasting stains on a system of justice'_blunders which are likely to occur when reasons need not be given and when the reasonableness and indeed legality of judgments need not be subjected to any appraisal other than one's
Summary of Colloquy on Administrative Law, 6 J. Soc. Pub. Teachers of Law 70, 73
(1961). Accordingly, I dissent.
PERRY ET AL. V. SINDERMANN
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 70–36. Argued January 18, 1972—Decided June 29, 1972
Respondent was employed in a state college system for 10 years,
the last four as a junior college professor under a series of oneyear written contracts. The Regents declined to renew his employment for the next year, without giving him an explanation or prior hearing, Respondent then brought this action in the District Court, alleging that the decision not to rehire him was based on respondent's public criticism of the college administration and thus infringed his free speech right, and that the Regents' failure to afford him a hearing violated his procedural due process right. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners, concluding that respondent's contract had terminated and the junior college had not adopted the tenure system. The Court of Appeals reversed on the grounds that, despite lack of tenure, nonrenewal of respondent's contract would violate the Fourteenth Amendment if it was in fact based on his protected free speech, and that if respondent could show that he had an “expectancy” of re-employment, the failure to allow him an opportunity for a hearing would violate the procedural due process guarantee. Held:
1. Lack of a contractual or tenure right to re-employment, taken alone, did not defeat respondent's claim that the nonrenewal of his contract violated his free speech right under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court therefore erred in foreclosing determination of the contested issue whether the decision not to renew was based on respondent's exercise of his right of free speech. Pp. 596–598.
2. Though a subjective "expectancy” of tenure is not protected by procedural due process, respondent's allegation that the college had a de facto tenure policy, arising from rules and understandings officially promulgated and fostered, entitled him to an opportunity of proving the legitimacy of his claim to job tenure. Such proof would obligate the college to afford him a requested hearing where he could be informed of the grounds for his nonretention
and challenge their sufficiency. Pp. 599–603. 430 F. 2d 939, affirmed.
Opinion of the Court
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BURGER, C. J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 603. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, in which DOUGLAS, J., joined, post, p. 604. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, post, p. 605. POWELL, J., took no part in the decision of the case.
W. 0. Shafer argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the brief was Lucius D. Bunton.
Michael H. Gottesman argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were George H. Cohen and Warren Burnett.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by David Rubin and Richard J. Medalie for the National Education Association; by John Ligtenberg and Andrew J. Leahy for the American Federation of Teachers; and by Herman 1. Orentlicher and William W. Van Alstyne for the American Association of University Professors.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
From 1959 to 1969 the respondent, Robert Sindermann, was a teacher in the state college system of the State of Texas. After teaching for two years at the University of Texas and for four years at San Antonio Junior College, he became a professor of Government and Social Science at Odessa Junior College in 1965. He was employed at the college for four successive years, under a series of one-year contracts. He was successful enough to be appointed, for a time, the cochairman of his department.
During the 1968–1969 academic year, however, controversy arose between the respondent and the college administration. The respondent was elected president of the Texas Junior College Teachers Association. In this capacity, he left his teaching duties on several occasions to testify before committees of the Texas Legis
lature, and he became involved in public disagreements with the policies of the college's Board of Regents. In particular, he aligned himself with a group advocating the elevation of the college to four-year status—a change opposed by the Regents. And, on one occasion, a newspaper advertisement appeared over his name that was highly critical of the Regents.
Finally, in May 1969, the respondent's one-year employment contract terminated and the Board of Regents voted not to offer hini a new contract for the next academic year. The Regents issued a press release setting forth allegations of the respondent's insubordination. But they provided him no official statement of the reasons for the nonrenewal of his contract. And they allowed him no opportunity for a hearing to challenge the basis of the nonrenewal.
The respondent then brought this action in Federal District Court. He alleged primarily that the Regents' decision not to rehire him was based on his public criticism of the policies of the college administration and thus infringed his right to freedom of speech. He also alleged that their failure to provide him an opportunity for a hearing violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of procedural due process. The petitioners members of the Board of Regents and the president of the college-denied that their decision was made in retaliation for the respondent's public criticism and argued that they had no obligation to provide a hearing. On the basis of these bare pleadings and three
1 The press release stated, for example, that the respondent had defied his superiors by attending legislative committee meetings when college officials had specifically refused to permit him to leave his classes for that purpose.
2 The petitioners claimed, in their motion for summary judgment, that the decision not to retain the respondent was really based on his insubordinate conduct. See n. 1, supra.