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Ayala v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections


March 22, 2010


On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.


Submitted February 22, 2010

Before Judges Lisa and R. B. Coleman.

Appellant, Angel Manuel Ayala, III, a New Jersey State Prison inmate, appeals from a final decision of the Department of Corrections entered on March 25, 2009 adjudicating him guilty of committing prohibited act .256, refusing to obey an order of any staff member, in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a).*fn1

Appellant received sanctions of fifteen days detention, ninety days administrative segregation, sixty days loss of commutation time, and fifteen days loss of recreation privileges. This appeal followed.

Appellant argues that the decision should be reversed because it is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record and because he was denied his due process rights. We reject these arguments and affirm.

On February 26, 2009, a corrections officer directed appellant to remove a piece of elastic sock which he was using to secure his hair in a ponytail. Appellant refused to obey. The officer then instructed appellant to lock-in in his cell. Appellant refused to obey that command as well.

On February 27, 2009, the charges were served on appellant and the matter was referred to the hearing officer. The hearing began on March 2, 2009 and was continued until the next day because of a snow emergency. The hearing was again continued because appellant requested confrontation and stated he needed time to prepare questions. Appellant requested counsel substitute, which was provided. Appellant requested to call another inmate as a witness. The request was granted. However, the inmate issued a written statement saying he did not hear or see anything. Appellant's requested confrontation questions were asked at the hearing, which had been scheduled but postponed on March 6 and March 9 to enable appellant to prepare his confrontation questions. The final hearing was held and concluded on March 11, 2009.

Based upon his review of all of the relevant investigative reports and the testimony of corrections officers and appellant, the hearing officer adjudicated appellant guilty of the .256 charge and imposed the sanctions we have mentioned. Appellant filed an administrative appeal. The administrator of the correctional facility rendered the final agency decision, upholding the decision and sanctions of the hearing officer.

We will not interfere with an agency's decision unless it is arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable or unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). We have reviewed the record and we are satisfied that the reports and testimony relied upon by the hearing officer and the administrator provided the required "substantial" evidence to support the disciplinary violations against appellant. See R. 2:11- 3(e)(1)(D); McDonald v. Pinchak, 139 N.J. 188, 195 (1995); N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15(a).

We are further satisfied from our review of the record that the disciplinary proceedings were conducted in accordance with all applicable due process requirements. See Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 522 (1975). Appellant contends his due process rights were violated because he was denied his right of confrontation and because the administrative proceedings were not conducted in a timely manner. We reject both arguments. The record establishes that appellant was indeed provided with his right of confrontation. Also, the slight delay in concluding the hearing was necessitated by two factors, a snow emergency and appellant's request for additional time to enable him and his counsel substitute to prepare confrontation questions. Appellant suffered no prejudice. Considering the length of the delay, the reasons for the delay, and the absence of prejudice, there was no error in the failure to dismiss the charge. See N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.9.

Any additional arguments raised by appellant not specifically discussed in this opinion lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).


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