July 21, 2010
ANGEL VARGEZ, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted June 23, 2010
Before Judges Chambers and Kestin.
Angel Vargez, an inmate at the Northern State Prison, appeals from the disciplinary determination that he committed the prohibited acts of "assaulting any person," N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a)*.002, and "conduct which disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the correctional facility," N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a)*.306.
On May 12, 2009, a group of inmates assaulted another inmate in the prison yard, and the altercation disrupted the activity and schedule for the yard. Although evidence was conflicting on whether Vargez was one of the inmates who participated in the assault, the hearing officer found that he had done so.
On the assault charge, the hearing officer imposed as sanctions fifteen days detention, 185 days of administrative segregation, 185 days of loss of commutation time, and 180 days of loss of recreation privileges. On the disruption of the facility charge, Vargez received as sanctions ninety-five days of administrative segregation, ninety-five days of loss of commutation time, and fifteen days of loss of recreation privileges.
Vargez appealed, and in a decision dated June 16, 2009, the administrator upheld the findings of the hearing officer. Vargez now appeals that decision. He contends that the hearing officer violated his rights "by not allowing Mr. Vargez the opportunity to produce evidence which would establish his innocence, and by relying solely on third party hearsay testimony."
Our role in reviewing an administrative decision is limited, and we may not "substitute our judgment for that of the agency where its findings are supported by substantial credible evidence in the record." Johnson v. Dep't of Corr., 375 N.J. Super. 347, 352 (App. Div. 2005). We must perform "more than a perfunctory review"; rather we must make a "careful and principled consideration of the agency record and findings."
Id. at 353 (quoting Williams v. Dep't of Corr., 330 N.J. Super. 197, 203-04 (App. Div. 2000)). We will not reverse an administrative agency's decision unless it is "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable or  is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole." Ramirez v. Dep't of Corr., 382 N.J. Super. 18, 23 (App. Div. 2005) (alteration in original) (quoting Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980)).
We have given careful consideration to Vargez's arguments in light of the record and the applicable law. We are satisfied that the findings of the hearing officer are supported by substantial credible evidence, that Vargez was given ample opportunity to present his case, and that his arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2).
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