On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-3165-05; OAL Docket No. CSV-8041-2003; DOP Docket No. 2003-4421.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fuentes and Graves.
Plaintiff Josephus T. Y. Nyema, Sr., appeals from an order dated June 23, 2006, and amended July 14, 2006, which denied his request to enforce a written settlement agreement with defendant Mercer County dated April 19, 2004. After reviewing the record and the applicable law in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
Plaintiff's notice of motion sought to enforce an agreement that was reached when the parties appeared before Administrative Law Judge John Schuster, III, on April 19, 2004. Pursuant to the agreement, plaintiff pled guilty to "sleeping while on duty and neglect of duty as specified in the final notice of disciplinary action dated June 2, 2003," and the remaining charges, which were also related to plaintiff's employment as a Mercer County Corrections Officer, were dismissed. In exchange for plaintiff's guilty plea, Mercer County agreed to impose a ninety-day suspension beginning from the original suspension date of April 7, 2003, and it agreed to provide a "back pay reimbursement within 30 days of the Merit System Board's approval of [the] agreement." The parties further agreed plaintiff would immediately apply for an "Ordinary Disability Pension," and Mercer County would support plaintiff's application "throughout the application process." Mercer County also agreed to reinstate plaintiff to his position as a Corrections Officer in the event his pension application was denied.
In his certification submitted in support of his motion to enforce the agreement, plaintiff alleged he returned to work on July 19, 2004, because the New Jersey State Division of Pensions and the County of Mercer gave him "the run around." According to plaintiff:
[T]he Division of Pensions had confirmed that Defendant County of Mercer did not submit plaintiff's Ordinary Disability application for processing and at the same time the Division of Pensions staff also alleged that plaintiff may not have met the qualification to receive Ordinary Disability Retirement benefits in the absence of a completed Ordinary Disability application which resulted to Defendant returning plaintiff to work to his former Correction Officer position on July 19, 2004, in serious medical condition to which plaintiff accepted under Protest and with the anticipation of pursuing his Ordinary Disability Application With Defendant State of New Jersey Department of Treasury-Division of Pensions and [B]enefits and Defendant County of Mercer legal agents.
As noted by defendant, however, a jury convicted plaintiff of third-degree forgery and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records on May 19, 2005. On August 26, 2005, plaintiff was sentenced to three years of probation, and, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2, a Criminal Part order entered on October 26, 2005, granted the State's motion to forfeit plaintiff's public employment.
The trial court's reasons for denying plaintiff's motion to enforce the agreement dated April 19, 2004, included the following:
Normally, the [c]court will honor an agreement to settle a lawsuit as a public policy proposition. The fact that in this case the pro se plaintiff contends that the memorialized settlement agreement was entered between he and the above named defendants. However, pro se plaintiff has not presented any evidence of such agreement.
Further, pro se plaintiff, by his own contentions, has, by his own . . . presentation, has articulated that . . . there had been numerous proceedings and issues related to the presence and terms of the alleged settlement agreement, of the existence of the agreement. For instance, pro se plaintiff admittedly states that there have been allegations of forgery against him as to this claimed settlement agreement. . . . [I]n light of the case history as well as the lack of proofs with this application, pro se plaintiff's request is denied.
Based on our review of the record, we are satisfied there was neither error nor abuse of discretion by the trial court, and we affirm substantially for ...