Biography and History

In her sophomore and junior years, Sally Frank attempted to bicker into Ivy Club, Tiger Inn, and University Cottage Club and was denied membership. Frank volunteered at the American Civil Liberties Union at this time and worked with a lawyer there who believed that the eating clubs, functioning as public institutions, violated the New Jersey law against discrimination and suggested legal action. Acting upon this advice, in February of 1979 Frank filed a sex discrimination complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights against Ivy Club, Tiger Inn, University Cottage Club and Princeton University, alleging that the clubs discriminated against her because of her gender. Nadine Taub, who was at the time Director of the Women's Rights Litigation Clinic at Rutgers University, served as co-counsel along with the ACLU for Sally Frank during her thirteen-year legal battle with Ivy Club, Tiger Inn, University Cottage Club and Princeton University.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights twice refused to investigate Frank's complaint on the grounds that Ivy, Tiger and Cottage were private organizations functioning separately from Princeton University. Frank defended her argument that the clubs functioned as public accommodations. The Division responded by undertaking a cursory investigation into the matter to determine whether a relationship indeed existed. Following a yearlong fact-finding investigation, the Division dismissed Frank's claim in December of 1981, holding that Ivy, Tiger, and Cottage were bona fide clubs distinctly private in nature and thus not subject to the jurisdiction of the New Jersey law against discrimination.

The Division also cleared the charges against Princeton University, finding no probable cause existed to support the allegation of discrimination. Frank appealed the Division's decision to higher a court. In 1983, the New Jersey Supreme Court refused to take a position, vacating the Division's order and remanding the case back for further investigation. Without further guidance from the New Jersey State Supreme Court, the Division resumed the fact-finding investigation for the dual purpose of determining the nature and status of the clubs as well as their affiliation with Princeton University.

In March and April of 1984, James Sincaglia, Chief of the Bureau of Enforcement, Division on Civil Rights, held a two-day fact-finding conference for which all parties submitted for a second time thousands of pages of information and interrogatories and exchanged lists of proposed stipulations to be accepted and/or disputed. They discussed and agreed upon over two hundred stipulations relating to the status and nature of the clubs and Princeton University. In addition, all counsel introduced documents, presented unsworn testimony, cross-examined witnesses and presented both oral and written legal arguments. On May 31, 1984, Sincaglia found sufficient evidence existed and recommended a hearing for the case.

Pamela S. Poff, Director of the Division on Civil Rights, concluded in her Finding of Probable Cause brief that a relationship between the clubs and Princeton University is one of "integral connection and mutual benefit." Poff based her decision on eleven factual conclusions, and specifically upon three key elements, that "the clubs are held out as part of a club system which serves Princeton students; the clubs draw their membership almost exclusively from Princeton University students; and Princeton relies upon the club system to feed a majority of it [s] upper class students." In addition, she found probable cause to believe that the clubs and Princeton University discriminated on the basis of gender.

In July of 1985, the case was filed as a "contested case" with the Office of Administrative Law; however, on December 12, Administrative Law Judge Robert S. Miller found no material facts in dispute and granted the decision in favor of Frank. On February 16, 1986, Poff issued an Order of Partial Summary Decision on Jurisdiction, adopting the recommendations of Judge Miller. Furthermore, since no facts remained in dispute, Poff found that a full hearing on jurisdiction at the Office of Administrative Law would be "time consuming and wasteful" and remanded the matter back to the administrative law judge for further proceedings on the issues of liability and remedy.

On February 24, 1986, University Cottage Club settled with Frank for $20,000 in damages and attorney fees and adopted to admit women. In July of the same year, Princeton University followed suit and settled for $27,000 in damages and attorney fees.

Ivy Club and Tiger Inn continued to pursue their bona fide claim to private association, and after six days of formal hearings, Judge Miller issued an initial decision on the issues of damages and remedies. Judge Miller awarded $2,500 in personal damages to Frank; however, he denied her membership to any of the three eating clubs. In addition, Judge Miller recommended that in order for Ivy Club and Tiger Inn to remain all-male they could sever ties with Princeton University to attain "distinctly private" status.

Director Poff responded to the proposal by adopting Judge Miller's recommendation in denying club membership to Frank; however, she increased Frank's personal damages to $5,000, and rejected Judge Miller's suggestion that the clubs sever ties with Princeton University and instead ordered the clubs to admit women as members.

Ivy Club and Tiger Inn appealed the director's decision ordering them to admit women and filed a complaint with the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division. Ivy Club reserved its federal claim; however, Tiger Inn argued its constitutional right to freedom of association had been violated. The counsel for both Tiger Inn and Frank presented their arguments on the issue, but the Appellate Division refused to make a decision and remanded the case back for a plenary hearing. Frank petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court to review the Appellate Division's decision and in January, 1990, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral arguments on all the issues of the case. On July 3, 1990, the court found and reversed the Appellate Division's decision to remand the case for further hearing, and reinstated Director Poff's Order of Partial Summary Decision on Jurisdiction, awarding Frank damages and attorneys' fees and ordering the clubs to admit women as members.

The legal battle would continue for two more years. Following the New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Tiger Inn appealed and petitioned to the United States Supreme Court for a review of the case. In January 1991, the Supreme Court denied the request. The case was then heard in the Federal Circuit Court, which upheld the New Jersey Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Frank. The case officially concluded in June, 1992. As a result, Tiger Inn agreed to admit women as members (Ivy Club had begun admitting women in 1990) and both Ivy Club and Tiger Inn had to pay the ACLU $43,000 in legal fees.

Sally Frank is now a law professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She continues to practice law, specializing in family law and domestic violence. She has returned on numerous occasions to Princeton for reunion events, and has spoken to undergraduate classes about her legal battle. Nadine Taub is professor emeritus at the Rutgers School of Law, Newark, and continues to practice law in the State of New Jersey.

Source: From the finding aid for AC194

  • Nadine Taub Collection of Sally Frank Court Documents. 1879-1992 (inclusive), 1979-1992 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC194

    The Nadine Taub Collection of Sally Frank Court Documents chronicle Nadine Taub's role as co-counsel for Sally Frank, Princeton Class of 1980, in her thirteen-year legal battle after filing a sex discrimination complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights against Ivy Club, Tiger Inn, University Cottage Club and Princeton University, alleging that the clubs discriminated against her because of her gender. A significant part of the collection contains legal documents from Sally Frank's co-counsel as well as from defending counsel; research material including minutes, reports, newspaper clippings, campus publications, correspondence, and deeds; correspondence to and from Nadine Taub and Sally Frank, which is restricted until 2016; and from various counsel and judicial members.