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Dykeman v. Dep't of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


August 18, 2008

WILLIAM DYKEMAN, APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

On appeal from the Final Agency Decision of the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted August 6, 2008

Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Sabatino.

William Dykeman, an inmate in the New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) in Trenton, challenges the responses of the Department of Corrections (DOC) to his numerous requests and complaints regarding his imprisonment, made using the DOC's "Inmate Remedy System" (IRS). Because Dykeman has not exhausted his administrative remedies, he does not appeal from a final adjudication. As a result, the appeal is dismissed without prejudice.

The IRS was created so that inmates may "formally communicate with correctional facility staff to request information from, and present issues, concerns, complaints or problems to the correctional facility staff." N.J.A.C. 10A:1-4.1. The initial step of the IRS requires an inmate to fill out an IRS Form, seeking either a "Routine Inmate Request" or an "Interview Request." N.J.A.C. 10A:1-4.5. This must be done "to fully exhaust the initial step of the Inmate Remedy System prior to submitting an "Administrative Appeal." Ibid.; N.J.A.C. 10A:1-4.6(a).

The "Administrative Appeal" is a mechanism "through which inmates are encouraged to formally appeal to the Administrator or designee the decision or finding rendered by correctional facility staff in regard to the 'Routine Inmate Request' or 'Interview Request' that was previously presented by the inmate." N.J.A.C. 10A:1-4.1. Put another way:

[W]hen a "Routine Inmate Request" or "Interview Request" decision or finding is rendered by correctional facility staff to the inmate, and the inmate wishes to appeal the resulting decision or finding to the Administrator or designee, the inmate is encouraged to submit an "Administrative Appeal." The submission of an "Administrative Appeal" enables the inmate to fully utilize each available option by completing the comprehensive Inmate Remedy System in regard to the inmate's request for information, issue, concern, complaint or problem.

(d) The comprehensive Inmate Remedy System [is] to include a "Routine Inmate Request" and/or "Interview Request," and an "Administrative Appeal" must be utilized and fully exhausted prior to an inmate filing any legal action regarding information requests, issues, concerns, complaints, or problems. [N.J.A.C. 10A:1-4.4.]

"An 'Administrative Appeal' must be submitted by the inmate . . . within 10 calendar days from the issuance of the decision or finding of the correctional facility staff member to the 'Routine Inmate Request' or 'Interview Request.'" N.J.A.C. 10A:1-4.6. Lastly, and critical to this appeal, "[t]he decision or finding of the Administrator or designee to the 'Administrative Appeal' is the final level of review and decision or finding of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.'" Ibid.

Beginning on June 8, 2006, and as recently as May 11, 2007, using the IRS Forms, Dykeman made various requests or complaints concerning his incarceration at NJSP, such as: the medical and dental treatment available to him; the meals provided to him; his access to law library materials and law related phone calls; the exercise time afforded to him; the prison's smoking policy; and the clothing provided to him. All of his requests were received and the DOC either took no action and issued a DOC Corrective Action form, or returned Dykeman's IRS forms with a response. None of the IRS forms in the record on this appeal indicate that Dykeman appealed the outcome of his requests and complaints; instead, the section for an Administrative Appeal appears blank on each IRS form.

On December 11, 2006, Dykeman filed this appeal, alleging the following:

POINT I: THE DENIAL OF DAILY EXERCISE, COUPLED WITH BEING LOCKED IN A CELL FOR A SPAN OF 72 HOURS WITHOUT FRESH AIR OR EXERCISE CONSTITUTES CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT UNDER OUR EVOLVING STANDARDS FOR A CIVILIZED SOCIETY, AND UNDER A FAIR EIGHTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT ANALYSIS.

POINT II: MANY ASPECTS OF INMATES ACCESS TO THE COURTS IS UNDULY RESTRICTIVE, FRAUGHT WITH NEGLIGENCE AND CORRUPTION, CONSTITUTIONALLY VAGUE, AND IS OTHERWISE UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

POINT III: I HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT AS A STATE PRISON INMATE TO SERVE MY SENTENCE WITHOUT BEING EXPOSED TO THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE (ETS) AND THE PROBLEMS FROM DUST PARTICULATES AND NO FRESH AIR, ASSOCIATED WITH SICK BUILDING SYNDROME (SBS).

POINT IV: NEW JERSEY MUST PROVIDE STATE INMATES WITH A DIET THAT MEETS AT LEAST THE MINIMUM DAILY REQUIREMENTS FOR NUTRITION AS OUTLINED BY APPROPRIATE FEDERAL REGULATIONS.

POINT V: THE MEDICAL TREATMENT THAT I HAVE RECEIVED OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS FOR MY RIGHT HIP JOINT IS SUBSTANDARD, AND CONTRARY TO ACCEPTABLE STANDARDIZED CARE.

According to Rule 2:2-3(a)(2), appeals may be taken to the Appellate Division as of right "to review final decisions or actions of any state administrative agency or officer . . . except that review . . . shall not be maintainable so long as there is available a right of review before any administrative agency or officer, unless the interest of justice requires otherwise." "Exhaustion of all administrative relief is ordinarily required before an appeal may be taken to the Appellate Division." Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment 3.5 on R. 2:2-3 (2008). Furthermore, in Garrow v. Elizabeth Gen. Hosp. & Dispensary, 79 N.J. 549, 558-59 (1979), the Court stated:

Exhaustion of administrative remedies before resort to the courts is a firmly embedded judicial principle. See Central R.R. Co. v. Neeld, 26 N.J. 172, 178, cert. den. 357 U.S. 928, 78 S.Ct. 1373, 2 L.Ed. 2d 1371 (1958). This principle requires exhausting available procedures, that is, "pursuing them to their appropriate conclusion and, correlatively . . . awaiting their final outcome before seeking judicial intervention." Aircraft & Diesel Equip. Corp. v. Hirsch, 331 U.S. 752, 767, 67 S.Ct. 1493, 1500, 91 L.Ed. 1796, 1806 (1947).

In the present case, Dykeman's appeal is certainly not proper for our review. Dykeman indeed initiated the proscribed administrative procedures; however, he did not pursue them to their appropriate conclusion before seeking judicial review. See Aircraft, supra, 331 U.S. at 752, 67 S.Ct. at 1500, 91 L.Ed. 2d at 1806. As outlined above, N.J.A.C. 10A:1-4.1 to -4.6 requires an inmate, such as Dykeman, to submit an Administrative Appeal, the outcome of which is the final level of review by the DOC. In these instances, Dykeman either failed to make an "Administrative Appeal" on any of his twelve IRS Forms, or if he made such Administrative Appeals, he has failed to present to us the final decision or action of the administrative agency. Consequently, he is precluded from seeking judicial review at this time. Because there is no final agency disposition of his complaints, Dykeman may not appeal as of right. See R. 2:2-3(a)(2). Moreover, we perceive no compelling interest of justice that would cause us to relax the requirement that administrative relief be exhausted before judicial review is sought. Ibid. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed without prejudice.

Dismissed without prejudice.

20080818

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