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Rodgers v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

February 11, 2008


On appeal from a final decision of the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.


Submitted January 28, 2008

Before Judges C.S. Fisher and Kestin.

Appellant George Rodgers was an inmate at Bayside State Prison when charged with various disciplinary infractions.*fn1 In this appeal, Rodgers seeks our review of a final agency decision that found he had violated various disciplinary regulations. We find no merit in his contentions and affirm.

According to evidence presented to a hearing officer, at 2:35 p.m., on June 4, 2006, Corrections Officer Whildon was conducting a routine tour when he noticed that Rodgers' cell was "extremely dirty and untidy." Rodgers was charged with disciplinary infraction .651, being unsanitary and untidy.

At 4:00 p.m., Rodgers was instructed to pack his belongings so that he could be moved from his single occupancy cell to another housing unit. When Rodgers failed to comply by 5:45 p.m., Officer Whildon began packing Rodgers' television so that it could be taken to storage because the housing unit to which Rodgers was being transferred did not permit televisions. This caused Rodgers to shout, "what the fuck are you doing with my T.V.?" When the officer stood up, Rodgers said, "go ahead, and I will fuck you up!" Officer Whildon called for assistance, and Rodgers ran into the bathroom, urging several inmates to say they had seen Officer Whildon assault him. When Officer Whildon told Rodgers to stop talking and go into the dayroom, Rodgers stated, "go ahead and take me, I will make you pay!" Other officers arrived and restrained Rodgers, who was described in their reports as "verbally abusive and resistant." He was charged with disciplinary infraction *.005, threatening another with bodily harm.

Rodgers remained verbally abusive as he was handcuffed and placed in leg irons. An unscheduled count was called so that Rodgers could be safely escorted from the area. This disrupted normal operations and resulted in Rodgers being charged with disciplinary infraction *.306, conduct which disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the correctional facility.

At 5:55 p.m., Officer Currey performed a strip search of Rodgers. While Rodgers was removing his pants, Officer Currey observed him remove something from a plastic bag and place it in his mouth. Rogers was ordered to do a finger sweep of his mouth, which he refused. He also refused a second such direction and was charged with *.708, refusal to submit to a search.

A hearing began on June 7, 2006. When Rodgers indicated a need for additional time to prepare a defense and contact the Special Investigations Division, the hearing officer adjourned the matter until the next day.

The hearing was conducted on June 8, 2006. After considering all the evidence, the hearing officer reduced the .651 charge, for which Rodgers was given a verbal reprimand.

Rodgers was also found to have violated *.005, for which he received fifteen days detention. And, he was found to have violated both *.708 and *.306, and sanctioned fifteen days detention, 365 days administrative segregation and 365 days loss of commutation time. The sanction based on *.005 was ordered to run consecutively to the sanction imposed for the violations of *.708 and *.306.

Rodgers pursued an administrative appeal, which led only to a modification of the sanctions so that they would run concurrently. With that, Rodgers appealed to this court. We discern from his pro se brief that Rodgers contends the evidence in the record did not support the findings that were made and that he was deprived of procedural due process. We reject these contentions.

The standard we apply in reviewing final agency decisions has been firmly established. We will only intervene when the agency's decision is arbitrary, capricious or unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 657 (1999); Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579 (1980). Substantial evidence is defined as "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion." In re Application of Hackensack Water Co., 41 N.J. Super. 408, 418 (App. Div. 1956). We must defer to the agency's findings here because the ...

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