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Stanton v. Dep't of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


February 1, 2010

MICHAEL STANTON, APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

On appeal from a final decision of the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 21, 2010

Before Judges Fisher and Espinosa.

Appellant Michael Stanton, a prison inmate, was found guilty of refusing to obey an order (.256), and guilty of conduct disruptive with the security or orderly running of a correctional facility (*.306), N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1. The hearing officer imposed 10 days' detention, 180 days' administrative segregation, and 180 days' loss of commutation credit. A final agency decision, resulting from Stanton's administrative appeal, upheld the hearing officer's disposition. In his appeal to this court, Stanton argues he was deprived of due process and there was insufficient evidence to support the findings. We find insufficient merit in Stanton's arguments to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D) and (E). We add only the following brief comments.

Stanton argues that the hearing officer applied an improper standard in finding him guilty of the disciplinary charges. In these matters, prison officials must demonstrate there is substantial evidence that the inmate committed a prohibited act. N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15(a). In light of the sanctions imposed, due process principles require as much. See Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 530 (1975).

Here, in summarizing the evidence, the hearing officer commented that Stanton was unable to "substantiate his innocense [sic]"; this statement, according to Stanton, reveals that the hearing officer improperly saddled him with the burden of proving he did not commit the charged infractions. We disagree. Evidence offered against Stanton demonstrated that, while in the prison infirmary, Stanton was directed by a staff member to be seated; he refused, began to leave, disobeyed another direction to be seated, and then told a senior corrections officer that he was going to "fuck [her] up." As a result, the corrections officer issued an emergency code, which caused a shut down in the infirmary and other buildings. In defense, Stanton asserted in part that the corrections officer overreacted.

After thoroughly examining the record, we conclude that the hearing officer did not misallocate the burden of persuasion. Instead, we discern from the written decision that the hearing officer only inartfully described his finding that Stanton did not provide sufficiently persuasive evidence to overcome the substantial evidence amassed against him.

Affirmed.

20100201

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