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First Amendment Library:
Michael H. Gottesman


Respondent, an untenured teacher (who had previously been involved in an altercation with another teacher, an argument with school cafeteria employees, an incident in which he swore at students, and an incident in which he made obscene gestures to girl students), conveyed through a telephone call to a radio station the substance of a memorandum relating to teacher dress and appearance that the school principal had circulated to various teachers. The radio station announced the adoption of the dress code as a news item. Thereafter, petitioner School Board, adopting a recommendation of the superintendent, advised respondent that he would not be rehired, and cited his lack of tact in handling professional matters, with specific mention of the radio station and obscene gesture incidents. Respondent then brought this action against petitioner for reinstatement and damages, claiming that petitioner's refusal to rehire him violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.


Respondent was employed in a state college system for 10 years, the last four as a junior college professor under a series of one-year 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 reemployment, the failure to allow him an opportunity for a hearing would violate the procedural due process guarantee.