December 27, 2007
MARIO MUNGUIA, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 12, 2007
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and Lyons.
Petitioner Mario Munguia appeals from a final disciplinary decision by the Department of Corrections (DOC) finding him guilty of disciplinary charge .301 for unexcused absence or lateness for work detail on March 23 and again on March 24, 2007.
On March 27, 2007, petitioner appeared before a hearing officer and pled not guilty to the charges, claiming that he had been feeling dizzy and had a headache resulting from his diabetes on the dates at issue. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer found petitioner guilty, sanctioned him twenty days loss of recreation privileges and referred him to a classification committee for consideration of a job change. Petitioner appealed and the decision of the hearing officer was upheld by the DOC. In this appeal, petitioner argues that the hearing officer did not have substantial evidence to find petitioner guilty.
Our scope of review of administrative decisions is narrowly circumscribed. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999). Our role is to determine "'whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record' considering 'the proofs as a whole'" and "with due regard to the opportunity of the one who heard the witnesses to judge of their credibility." Ibid. (quoting Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589, 599 (1965)). We "may not 'engage in an independent assessment of the evidence . . . . '" In re Taylor, supra, 158 N.J. at 656 (quoting State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 471 (1999)). We will accord a strong presumption of reasonableness, Smith v. Ricci, 89 N.J. 514, 525 (1982), and give great deference to administrative decisions. State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 159 (1964). We do not, however, simply rubber-stamp the agency's decision. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). An administrative decision will be reversed only when it is found to be "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable or it is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole." Ibid.
We have carefully considered the record in light of petitioner's arguments and we find that the decision of the DOC is supported by substantial, credible evidence in the record. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D).
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