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Pratola v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


June 10, 2008

DONALD PRATOLA, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

On appeal from a Final Determination of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 27, 2008

Before Judges Gilroy and Baxter.

Appellant Donald Pratola appeals from a final administrative decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) denying his request for a reduction in custody status, that is, an assignment to a custody level that requires less supervision. N.J.A.C. 10A:9-1.3. We affirm.

On May 18, 2007, the Bayside State Prison Institutional Classification Committee (Committee) considered and denied appellant's request for a reduction in his custody status from "gang minimum"*fn1 to "full minimum."*fn2

The Committee determined appellant was not suitable for a change in custody status pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:9-4.5(a), based on the field account of his present offense of murder. On May 19, 2007, appellant appealed to the DOC, challenging the Committee's May 18, 2007 decision, denying him a reduction to full minimum status. On July 3, 2007, the DOC denied appellant's request for a change in the Committee's decision.

On appeal, appellant argues:

POINT I.

THE CLASSIFICATION COMMITTEE HERE AT BAYSIDE STATE PRISON (BSP) ABUSED IT[S] DISCRETION BY FAILING TO REASSIGN PLAINTIFF[] PRATOLA BACK TO HIS FULL-MINIMUM COMMUNITY RELEASE STATUS AFTER THE ESCAPE OF INMATE, ANTHONY RUSSO, ON MARCH 26, 2003, BEING ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS IN THEIR DECISION-MAKING PROCESS.

As an appellate tribunal, our ability to review a final decision of an administrative agency is limited. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999). We will not disturb the determination of an administrative agency, absent a showing it was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable; that it lacked fair support in the evidence; or that it violated legislative policies. In re Musick, 143 N.J. 206, 216 (1996); Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); Campbell v. Dep't. of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963). Moreover, decisions of administrative agencies carry with them a presumption of reasonableness. City of Newark v. Natural Res. Council, 82 N.J. 530, 539, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 983, 101 S.Ct. 400, 66 L.Ed. 2d 245 (1980). Therefore, we may not vacate an agency's determination because of doubts as to its wisdom or because the record may support more than one result. See De Vitis v. N.J. Racing Comm'n, 202 N.J. Super. 484, 489-90 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 102 N.J. 337 (1985).

We have considered appellant's argument in light of the record and applicable law. We are satisfied that the argument is without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Nevertheless, we add the following comment.

Appellant's argument mirrors the argument he previously presented to this court in a prior appeal, which we rejected. Pratola v. Classification Comm. at Bayside State Prison, No. A-4700-04 (App. Div. May 31, 2006). As in the prior appeal, the Committee denied his application to change his custody status from "gang minimum" to "full minimum" based on the field account of his present offense of murder, which the Committee may rely on in making decisions concerning an inmate's custody status, as it is one of the nine enumerated factors contained in N.J.A.C. 10A:9-4.5(a). We discern no reason to interfere with the Committee's decision that appellant should be denied full minimum custody status and secured at a higher level of custody because of his history of violence, which also includes a disciplinary infraction in 1997 for threatening another with bodily harm.

Affirmed.


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