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Williams v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


April 22, 2009

JAMES WILLIAMS, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

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

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 14, 2009

Before Judges Lihotz and Messano.

This is a prison disciplinary appeal. James Williams, an inmate currently confined at the New Jersey State Prison, appeals from a Department of Corrections (DOC) determination, after administrative proceedings, finding he committed prohibited act *.202, possession or introduction of a weapon, in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). We affirm.

The charge was issued by Special Investigations Division Investigator Raphael Dolce, who found a seven-inch plastic sharpened instrument during a search of Williams's property on June 15, 2007. At the time, Williams was placed on Temporary Closed Custody status pending a full search of his property. Following discovery of the weapon, Williams was placed on pre-hearing detention status pending a disciplinary hearing.

Earlier, on June 7, 2007, Williams had been reassigned, causing him to relocate his quarters from the unit located at 3-C to the unit located at 2-R. Due to the late hour, the bulk of Williams's personal belongings remained on a cart overnight from June 7 to June 8, 2007 in a common area of the housing unit. In the course of the move, Williams maintains he did not have continuous control over his property and was prevented from immediately unpacking his belongings. Williams argued because he did not have absolute control and, when given control, had insufficient time to thoroughly check the possessions, which he had accumulated over his twenty-five years of confinement, he should not be held responsible for the contraband allegedly found among his personalty.

Williams was afforded a counsel substitute. N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.12. He declined the opportunity to name witnesses and confront or cross-examine adverse witnesses.

The Hearing Officer (HO) rejected Williams's argument because he was given full control of his belongings on June 8, 2007, until the time they were confiscated on June 13, 2007. Consequently, the HO concluded Williams was in possession of the weapon. Williams was sanctioned to fifteen days of detention; 270 days of administrative segregation; and 270 days loss of commutation time. On administrative appeal, this determination was upheld.

Williams argues he was denied due process because: (1) the HO's determination was not based on substantial credible evidence; (2) the HO failed to articulate the reasons supporting his conclusion that Williams should be held responsible for the contraband found among his personal property; and (3) the HO failed to consider "all the factors involved in the instant case."

We reverse only where an agency's decision is arbitrary, capricious, or unsupported by credible evidence in the record. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). Unless we make such a finding, the agency's ruling should not be disturbed. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 657 (1999); Barone v. Dep't of Human Servs., 210 N.J. Super. 276, 285 (App. Div. 1986), aff'd, 107 N.J. 355 (1987).

Our review of the record shows there is sufficient credible evidence to support the Department's decision and, also that Williams was afforded all the process he was due. Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 529-33 (1975). We have considered each contention raised, in light of the record and the applicable law, and are satisfied that there is none of sufficient merit to warrant extended discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D) and (E).

Affirmed.

20090422

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