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Clay v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


July 21, 2010

DONALD CLAY, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY 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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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: July 6, 2010

Before Judges Cuff and Fuentes.

Appellant Donald Clay appeals from a final administrative decision of the Department of Corrections entered on August 3, 2009, finding him guilty of disciplinary infractions *.803/*.203, attempting or making plans to possess a prohibited substance; and *.803/*.751, attempting to bribe any official or staff member in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). The inmate received the following sanction for the *.803/*.203 charge: fifteen days detention, 365 days administrative segregation, 365 days loss of commutation time, 30 days loss of recreational privileges, and permanent loss of contact visits. For the *.803/*.751 charge, attempting to bribe a corrections officer, the inmate received the following sanction: 15 days detention, 365 days administrative segregation, and 365 days loss of commutation time.

On appeal, the inmate argues that his request for a polygraph examination should have been granted, inconsistencies in the evidence undermine the findings, and the discipline imposed is excessive. We disagree and affirm.

The charges are founded on a report by Senior Corrections Officer (SCO) Wilson. He related that on July 15 and July 16, the inmate passed two letters to him. The first letter proposed a plan for Wilson to obtain a controlled dangerous substance (marijuana) for the inmate in exchange for money. An investigation commenced to determine the source of the money to be paid by the inmate to SCO Wilson. The next day, a second letter was given to Wilson by the inmate. He was charged that day and placed in pre-hearing detention.

"A finding of guilt at a disciplinary hearing [must] be based upon substantial evidence that the inmate has committed a prohibited act." N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15(a). Substantial evidence is "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." In re Application of Hackensack Water Co., 41 N.J. Super. 408, 418 (App. Div. 1956).

Our scope of review is very narrow. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). Once we are satisfied that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the finding of guilt, we must affirm. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 651 (1999).

Here, the hearing officer based his findings on the physical evidence of the letters passed by the inmate to Wilson, the handwriting comparison performed by a senior investigator, the statements of Wilson, and the report of another investigator. The evidence is sufficient to support the charges and the findings of the hearing officer are well founded on this evidence.

We are also satisfied that the inmate received the process he is due. Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 529 (1975); See also McDonald v. Pinchak, 139 N.J. 188, 222 (1995); Jacobs v. Stephens, 139 N.J. 212, 215 (1995); N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.8(c). Although two hearing officers were involved in the hearing process, only one hearing officer received all of the evidence, conducted the confrontation hearing of SCO Wilson requested by the inmate, made the findings that supported the adjudication, and imposed the disciplinary sanction. Any delay in concluding the hearing on the charges was occasioned by the inmate's request for confrontation and handwriting comparison.

We are also satisfied that the administrator of the prison denied the inmate's request for a polygraph examination. In this matter, there was substantial physical evidence corroborating the report filed by SCO Wilson. Ramirez v. Dep't of Corrs., 382 N.J. Super. 18, 24 (App. Div. 2005).

Affirmed.

20100721

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