On appeal from the State of New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges S.L. Reisner and LeWinn.
We have sua sponte consolidated these two appeals as they involve the same issue. Both appellants are residents of the Special Treatment Unit (STU) in Kearney, New Jersey, having been civilly committed there pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. The STU is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections (the Department), in cooperation with the Department of Human Services. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.34.
Appellants challenge administrative orders denying their requests for personal computers. The only "record" presented on appeal consists of several STU request forms containing appellants' requests and the denials handwritten on those forms and signed by an STU administrator or staff supervisor. On appeal, appellants raise factual contentions in support of their need for personal computers. Each professes a desire to pursue his education and to engage in legal research. Each contends that the computers provided at the STU are inadequate to meet their needs. Appellants also assert constitutional challenges to the STU's prohibition against personal computers. The State's brief proffers the "Residents' Guide to the STU[,]" which states: "Computers, (PC's, notebooks, and laptops) are currently prohibited." The State's brief also presents us with several reasons in support of that policy. However, none of these reasons was presented to appellants at the time of the denials.
In sum, we conclude that we are unable to conduct "an informed appellate review" of the Department's actions. Mortg. Bankers Ass'n v. N.J. Real Estate Com'n, 102 N.J. 176, 190 (1986)(citations omitted).
Therefore, we remand to enable the Department to issue formal decisions in each case with supporting statements of reasons. If, however, the Department's decisions implicate factual issues as to which there may be a dispute, appellants may be entitled to a hearing.
On remand, the Department shall consider whether there is a sufficient factual dispute in either or both cases to warrant a hearing. If the Department concludes that there is no basis to afford such a hearing, the Department shall explain in its decisions the reasons for that conclusion.
Reversed and remanded. We do not retain jurisdiction.
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