On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at N.J. Super. (1994).
Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Handler, Pollock, O'hern, Garibaldi, Stein and Coleman join in this opinion.
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
IN THE MATTER OF THE DISCIPLINARY HEARING OF CURTIS BYNES, PISCATAWAY TOWNSHIP POLICE OFFICER (A-6-95)
(NOTE: This Court wrote no full opinion in this case. Rather, the Court's affirmance of the judgment of the Appellate Division is based substantially on the reasons expressed in the PER CURIAM opinion below.)
Argued September 11, 1995 -- Decided October 25, 1995
Patrolman Curtis Bynes of the Piscataway Police Department (PPD) was found guilty of insubordination and feigning an injury subsequent to an Administrative Disciplinary Hearing conducted by the PPD. As a result of these findings, Bynes was sentenced to ten days suspension for feigning an injury and twenty days suspension for insubordination.
Bynes appealed these convictions to the Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County. After a trial, the Judge dismissed the feigning an injury charge, affirmed the insubordination charge, and reduced the twenty-day suspension without pay to a three-day suspension, whereby Bynes had to forfeit three personal or sick days.
Bynes appealed the decision of the trial court to the Appellate Division. He argued that the absence of substantial credible evidence on the record prevented the trial court from sustaining the insubordination charge. He argued that the PPD failed to sustain its burden of proof and violated his presumption of innocence. The record reflects that he acted reasonably and civilly in response to a superior's abusive behavior. Therefore, the finding of insubordination was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. On cross-appeal, the Township of Piscataway asserted that the sentence imposed for the insubordination charge should not have been modified, and the charge of feigning an injury was supported by substantial evidence and should not have been dismissed.
The Appellate Division, in a per curiam opinion, affirmed the decision of the trial court. The appellate panel concluded that the trial court properly found there was substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole to support the insubordination charge but that there was not substantial credible evidence to support the charge of feigning an injury. On the issue of the reduction of the penalty imposed on the insubordination charge, the Appellate Division found that the trial court's Conclusion that the original penalty was unduly harsh in relation to what actually transpired was based on findings that were amply supported by the record.
One Judge Dissented, finding that Bynes, considering his condition, reacted reasonably to the overall insensitivity of a superior officer. According to the Dissent, Bynes' conduct, as a matter of law, did not rise to the level of insubordination under the circumstances presented.
Bynes appeals to the Supreme Court as of right based on the Dissent below.
HELD: Judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED substantially for the reasons expressed in the written per curiam opinion below. There was substantial credible evidence in the record to support both the insubordination ...