There has been no evidence before this court that Marx was, in fact, guilty of any academic dishonesty or that he was actually aware of these accusations. Nor has there been any evidence to support an inference that these accusations played any part in the Clayton matter. Certainly, there is no evidence that they were used by Shields to intimidate Marx into voting to convict Clayton, the original offer of proof. The court finds that these were groundless accusations which played no part in the proceedings against Clayton, and that the Committee acted responsibly in investigating them.
Plaintiff also characterizes Clayton's conviction as the result of the Honor Committee's effort to resurrect the honor system as a result of perceived faculty disillusionment with the Honor Code at Princeton. Shields and Hamel were the principal authors of an Honor Committee Report in which the Honor Committee recommended retaining the Honor System at Princeton in spite of the lack of confidence the Committee thought the faculty had in the system.
Shields and Hamel did not make Clayton a scapegoat for purposes of saving the Honor Committee. There were three other members of the Honor Committee who voted to convict, and I am convinced that all five members of the Committee carefully examined the facts of this particular case to come to their own conclusion. The members of the Committee voted to convict because they believed Clayton was guilty and not because they were out to justify the existence of the Honor System. This was not a "Dreyfus" case.
Plaintiff also raises defendant's alleged failure to supervise or otherwise control the Honor Committee as a violation of Mr. Clayton's right to review under the Honor Constitution. The System, as established by Princeton and agreed to by Clayton when he matriculated at Princeton, is a student run Honor System with review by the President of the University. As I already stated, I was deeply impressed by the careful, thorough and thoughtful investigation President Bowen and his associate conducted of Clayton's conviction.
I do not find that the Honor Committee operates in either an uncontrolled or unsupervised manner. Certainly the appellate process affords a convicted student a presumptively viable avenue for review.
As discussed earlier, it is also not this court's role to judge the propriety of the system Princeton chooses to employ to police cheating in its student body. Entrusting members of the student body to investigate and adjudicate the alleged malefactions of their fellow students is no sin. In the absence of egregious behavior on the part of the entrusted body, Princeton's action can be viewed commendably as a vote of confidence in the maturity of the student body.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Jurisdiction in this action is based upon diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. New Jersey law governs this action.
The initial issue to be addressed is what a court of law's proper standard of review should be in considering disciplinary actions taken by a university. I note that any constitutional issues raised in the complaint have either been disposed of by summary judgment, see Clayton I at 810, or are no longer being pursued.
There are at present no New Jersey Supreme Court decisions directly addressing the role of courts of law in reviewing academic disciplinary actions, although there are a number of decisions that provide meaningful guidance on the issue. The task of this court under Erie Railroad v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 82 L. Ed. 1188, 58 S. Ct. 817 (1938), and its progeny, is to make an informed prediction as to how the New Jersey Supreme Court would rule on this issue were this same case before it. See Pennsylvania Glass Sand Corp. v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 652 F.2d 1165, 1167 (3d Cir. 1981); Becker v. Interstate Properties, 569 F.2d 1203, 1204-6 (3d Cir. 1977).
In my prior ruling in this case, a motion for summary judgment, I found as a matter of law that New Jersey courts "would provide some measure of protection to Mr. Clayton's status as a member in good standing of Princeton's academic community." Clayton v. Trustees of Princeton University, 519 F. Supp. 802, 805 (D.N.J. 1981) (Clayton I). In determining which standards would be applied in reviewing a student disciplinary matter, I held that Princeton should be held to substantial compliance with the procedures it established for itself. Clayton I at 806.
In reaching that result, I examined the New Jersey law of associations as enunciated by the New Jersey courts up to that time, and concluded that the New Jersey courts would approach this case in a manner similar to that taken in Tedeschi v. Wagner College, 49 N.Y. 2d 652, 427 N.Y.S.2d 760, 404 N.E.2d 1302 (Ct. App. 1980). I stated, "If Mr. Clayton can demonstrate that Princeton materially breached its procedures in deciding to suspend him then he will be entitled to some form of relief from this court." Clayton I at 806.
I now find that this statement of the law is incorrect and a New Jersey state court would not apply the "substantial compliance" test outlined in Clayton I. While the Supreme Court of New Jersey has not spoken directly on this point, I believe that they have given sufficient guidance so as to permit me to conclude that my original prediction of the law was flawed. As the Third Circuit stated in Becker, a federal court's prediction of state law "cannot be the product of a mere recitation of previously decided cases . . . [rather], . . . a federal court must be sensitive to the doctrinal trends of the state whose law it applies, and the policies which inform the prior adjudications by the state courts." See Becker at 1205-1206.
Since my decision in Clayton I, the New Jersey Supreme Court has clarified the law further as to the standards a court of law is to use in reviewing disciplinary actions of private associations. In Chavis v. Rowe, 93 N.J. 103, 459 A.2d 674 (1983), the court held that judicial inquiry into the removal procedures followed in the "defrocking" of a church deacon would intrude impermissibly on matters of church doctrine and polity. Chavis at 110. While the court did not reach the merits of the case because to do so would have involved the court in scrutiny of Biblical laws and church doctrine, the court did in dicta reaffirm that New Jersey law allows courts to inquire into disciplinary procedures of private associations where there has been an accroachment of a judicially-protectible interest. Id.
In an opinion released the same day as Chavis, the court was much more specific in delineating the nature of this judicial inquiry into the disciplinary actions of private associations. In Rutledge v. Gulian, 93 N.J. 113, 459 A.2d 680 (1983), the New Jersey Supreme Court reviewed the suspension of a member from the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey. In holding that judicial intrusion into Masonic procedures should be confined to procedures that are fundamentally unfair, the court stated:
In determining whether a private organization is bound by its established procedures, we would again balance the organization's interest in autonomy and its reason for straying from its rules against the magnitude of interference with the member's interest in the organization and the likelihood that the established procedures would safeguard that interest.