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Thus, the respondent offered to prove that a teacher with his long period of service at this particular State College had no less a "property” interest in continued employment than a formally tenured teacher at other colleges, and had no less a procedural due process right to a statement of reasons and a hearing before college officials upon their decision not to retain him.

We have made clear in Roth, supra, at 571-572, that "property” interests subject to procedural due process protection are not limited by a few rigid, technical forms. Rather, "property” denotes a broad range of interests that are secured by "existing rules or understandings.” Id., at 577. A person's interest in a benefit is a “property” interest for due process purposes if there are such rules or mutually explicit understandings that support his claim of entitlement to the benefit and that he may invoke at a hearing. Ibid.

A written contract with an explicit tenure provision clearly is evidence of a formal understanding that supports a teacher's claim of entitlement to continued employment unless sufficient "cause” is shown. Yet absence of such an explicit contractual provision may not always foreclose the possibility that a teacher has a “property" interest in re-employment. For example, the law of contracts in most, if not all, jurisdictions long has employed

of not more than four years (even though thereby the person's total probationary period in the academic profession is extended beyond the normal maximum of seven years).

“(3) Adequate cause for dismissal for a faculty member with tenure may be established by demonstrating professional incompetence, moral turpitude, or gross neglect of professional responsibilities.” The respondent alleges that, because he has been employed as a "full-time instructor” or professor within the Texas College and University System for 10 years, he should have “tenure” under these provisions.

Opinion of the Court

408 U.S.

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a process by which agreements, though not formalized in writing, may be "implied.” 3 A. Corbin on Contracts $$ 561-572A (1960). Explicit contractual provisions may be supplemented by other agreements implied from “the promisor's words and conduct in the light of the surrounding circumstances.Id., at $ 562. And, "[t]he mes of [the promisor's] words and acts is found by relating them to the usage of the past.” Ibid.

A teacher, like the respondent, who has held his position for a number of years, might be able to show from the circumstances of this service and from other relevant facts—that he has a legitimate claim of entitlement to job tenure. Just as this Court has found there to be a "common law of a particular industry or of a particular plant” that may supplement a collective-bargaining agreement, Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Co., 363 U. S. 574, 579, so there may be an unwritten "common law” in a particular university that certain employees shall have the equivalent of tenure. This is particularly likely in a college or university, like Odessa Junior College, that has no explicit tenure system even for senior members of its faculty, but that nonetheless may have created such a system in practice. See C. Byse & L. Joughin, Tenure in American Higher Education 17–28 (1959)."

In this case, the respondent has alleged the existence of rules and understandings, promulgated and fostered by state officials, that may justify his legitimate claim of entitlement to continued employment absent "suf

7 We do not now hold that the respondent has any such legitimate claim of entitlement to job tenure. For “[p]roperty interests .. are not created by the Constitution. Rather, they are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law ...." Board of Regents v. Roth, supra, at 577. If it is the law of Texas that a teacher in the respondent's position has no contractual or other claim to job tenure, the respondent's claim would be defeated.


BURGER, C. J., concurring

ficient cause.” We disagree with the Court of Appeals insofar as it held that a mere subjective "expectancy” is protected by procedural due process, but we agree that the respondent must be given an opportunity to prove the legitimacy of his claim of such entitlement in light of “the policies and practices of the institution.” 430 F. 2d, at 943. Proof of such a property interest would not, of course, entitle him to reinstatement. But such proof would obligate college officials to grant a hearing at his request, where he could be informed of the grounds for his nonretention and challenge their sufficiency.

Therefore, while we do not wholly agree with the opinion of the Court of Appeals, its judgment remanding this case to the District Court is


MR. JUSTICE POWELL took no part in the decision of

this case.



I concur in the Court's judgments and opinions in Sindermann and Roth, but there is one central point in both decisions that I would like to underscore since it may have been obscured in the comprehensive discussion of the cases. That point is that the relationship between a state institution and one of its teachers is essentially a matter of state concern and state law. The Court holds today only that a state-employed teacher who has a right to re-employment under state law, arising from either an express or implied contract, has, in turn, a right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to some form of prior administrative or academic hearing on the cause

*This opinion applies also to No. 71-162, Board of Regents of State Colleges et al. v. Roth, ante, p. 564.

Opinion of BRENNAN, J.

408 U.S.

for nonrenewal of his contract. Thus, whether a particular teacher in a particular context has any right to such administrative hearing hinges on a question of state law. The Court's opinion makes this point very sharply:

"Property interests . . . are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law ...." Board of Regents v. Roth, ante,

at 577. Because the availability of the Fourteenth Amendment right to a prior administrative hearing turns in each case on a question of state law, the issue of abstention will arise in future cases contesting whether particular teacher is entitled to a hearing prior to nonrenewal of his contract. If relevant state contract law is unclear, a federal court should, in my view, abstain from deciding whether he is constitutionally entitled to a prior hearing, and the teacher should be left to resort to state courts on the questions arising under state law.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom MR. JUSTICE Douglas joins, dissenting in No. 71-162, ante, p. 564, and dissenting in part in No. 70–36.

Although I agree with Part I of the Court's opinion in No. 70–36, I also agree with my Brother MARSHALL that "respondent[s] [were] denied due process when [their] contract[s] [were] not renewed and [they were] not informed of the reasons and given an opportunity to respond.” Ante, at 590. Since respondents were entitled to summary judgment on that issue, I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals in No. 71–162, and, to the extent indicated by my Brother MARSHALL, I would modify the judgment of the Court of Appeals in No. 70–36.


MARSHALL, J., dissenting in part

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting in part.

Respondent was a teacher in the state college system of the State of Texas for a decade before the Board of Regents of Odessa Junior College decided not to renew his contract. He brought this suit in Federal District Court claiming that the decision not to rehire him was in retaliation for his public criticism of the policies of the college administration in violation of the First Amendment, and that because the decision was made without giving him a statement of reasons and a hearing, it denied him the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. This Court affirms the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

I agree with Part I of the Court's opinion holding that respondent has presented a bona fide First Amendment claim that should be considered fully by the District Court. But, for the reasons stated in my dissenting opinion in Board of Regents v. Roth, No. 71–162, ante, p. 587, I would modify the judgment of the Court of Appeals to direct the District Court to enter summary judgment for respondent entitling him to a statement of reasons why his contract was not renewed and a hearing on disputed issues of fact.

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