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Kwanzaa v. Dep't of Corrections

December 23, 2009

CHAKA KWANZAA, APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



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

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: October 28, 2009

Before Judges Payne and C.L. Miniman.

Appellant Chaka Kwanzaa appeals from final agency action by the Department of Corrections on September 18, 2008, finding him guilty of disciplinary infraction.256, refusing to obey an order of any staff member, in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1. We affirm.

Kwanzaa was in the medical line at Mid-State Correctional Facility on August 11, 2008, waiting to go the clinic when he began to speak in a loud and disruptive manner. Senior Corrections Office (SCO) D'Anzieri instructed him to be quiet several times, but Kwanzaa refused to comply. He told D'Anzieri, "I don't have to listen to you, I am a paralegal and I can do whatever I want." He was then charged with disciplinary infraction.256 and Sergeant Santiago served the charge upon him that day. Santiago conducted an investigation, determined that the charge had merit, and referred it to a hearing officer.

On August 14, 2008, the hearing was rescheduled because no hearing officer was available. The August 21, 2008, hearing was adjourned so the hearing officer could determine whether there was a video of the incident, as Kwanzaa requested, but none was found to be available. The August 28, 2008, hearing was rescheduled to permit Kwanzaa to obtain witness statements and prepare confrontation questions. In his written statement, Al Walker related that Kwanzaa sat down in the medical line, but an officer told him to get up. According to Walker, Kwanzaa replied "no," and the officer again instructed him to get up. At that point, Kwanzaa said "I have a medical pass to sit down" and walked out of the office without saying where he was going.*fn1

Kwanzaa's other witness, L. Hawkins, could not remember the incident. The September 4, 2008, hearing was adjourned so Kwanzaa could resubmit his questions because he only submitted one set when two were required.

The hearing was conducted on September 18, 2008, at which time Kwanzaa pled not guilty. He took advantage of an opportunity to call witnesses, calling Walker on his behalf. He also was given an opportunity to confront the witnesses against him, SCO D'Anzieri and SCO Lawhorn, who witnessed Kwanzaa's behavior. However, during confrontation of Lawhorn, Kwanzaa disregarded the hearing officer's instructions, became disruptive, and began mocking the proceedings. Therefore, the hearing officer terminated the confrontation of witnesses.

The hearing officer, based on the evidence and testimony, including Walker's testimony that Kwanzaa disobeyed an order, found Kwanzaa guilty of the.256 infraction. He also found that a videotape was not required or needed to adjudicate the charge because it was clear that Kwanzaa disobeyed some order. He imposed sanctions of a fifteen-day detention, ninety-day administrative segregation, sixty-day loss of commutation time, and thirty-day loss of recreation privileges. He imposed the sanctions to encourage Kwanzaa to obey "simple orders." Kwanzaa then filed an administrative appeal. On September 19, 2008, the administration upheld the decision of the hearing officer, finding compliance with the Administrative Code 10A. This appeal followed.

Kwanzaa presents the following issues for our consideration, which we have renumbered as follows:*fn2

POINT I - APPELLANT'S SUBSTANTIAL DUE PROCESS RIGHTS TO CALL WITNESSES AND PRESENT DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE WAS ARBITRARILY DENIED.

POINT II -- APPELLANT'S SUBSTANTIAL DUE PROCESS RIGHTS TO CONFRONTATION CROSS-EXAMINATION ADVERSE WITNESSES WAS ARBITRARILY DENIED.

POINT III -- APPELLANT'S ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL WAS ARBITRARILY "RUBBER-STAMPED" WITHOUT AN EXPRESSION OF REASON OF FOUND FACTS IN ...


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