October 15, 2010
LOUIS S. ZIMMERMAN, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY MOTOR VEHICLE COMMISSION, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 6, 2010
Before Judges Lihotz and J. N. Harris.
Appellant Louis S. Zimmerman appeals from an order of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) that suspended his driving privileges for forty-five days. After a thorough review of the record and consideration of the arguments contained in the parties' briefs, we affirm.
In February 2007, appellant was convicted of speeding.
N.J.S.A. 39:4-98. He was assessed two points pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:19-10.1(37). Due to his accumulated points at that time, appellant's driving privileges were suspended by the MVC. N.J.A.C. 13:19-10.2.
In August 2007 appellant's driving privileges were restored. As part of the restoration process he was given a written warning pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:19-10.6, which advised him that his driving privileges would again be suspended if he subsequently were found guilty of violating a provision of New Jersey's motor vehicle and traffic laws within one year of the restoration. N.J.A.C. 13:19-10.6.
On July 8, 2008, appellant was convicted of failing to stop at a stop sign. N.J.S.A. 39:4-144. The MVC implemented the provisions of N.J.A.C. 13:19-10.6(a)(3) and notified appellant of its intention to suspend his driving privileges for forty-five days.
Appellant requested an administrative review of his suspension. After a conference at which appellant neither disputed his driving history nor raised any legal issues, the matter could not be amicably resolved. The MVC transmitted the case to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) where it was ultimately dismissed because of appellant's failure to appear on the date scheduled for a hearing.
Upon the matter's return to the MVC, it issued an order of forty-five days suspension dated September 15, 2009, effective on October 5, 2009. This appeal followed.
In response to appellant's request for a stay pending appeal, the MVC ordered that its suspension be stayed, effective on October 28, 2009, "until the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey issues a ruling in this matter." According to the MVC, "[a]ppellant has served 23 days of his suspension and 22 days remain."
Appellant's argument on appeal mirrors his application for a stay. He does not dispute any facts and concedes in his brief that "[t]he law is written and should be followed." He seeks, however, an "interpret[ation of] the law with a sense of leniency!" In this regard, he claims to be a safe driver, notwithstanding his accumulated points. He asserts that the suspension would (1) leave him with no mode of transportation to go to work, (2) impair his ability to attend his medical appointments, and (3) prevent him from performing the normal responsibilities of being a father of three children. Finally, he suggests that serving the remaining days of his suspension might cost him his teaching job; would negatively impact upon the learning progress of 600 children in six different schools; and would require his elderly parents -- who, as noted by appellant, "are both not the safest drivers and should not be driving that many miles a day!" -- to drive him to work.
We acknowledge that our role in reviewing the action of an administrative agency -- including the MVC -- is restricted. Our limited appellate function is to determine whether the administrative action was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. Hemsey v. Bd. of Trs., Police & Firemen's Ret. Sys., 198 N.J. 215, 223-24 (2009); Wnuck v. N.J. Div. of Motor Vehicles, 337 N.J. Super. 52, 56 (App. Div. 2001). The actions of administrative agencies are entitled to a presumption of reasonableness. East Orange Bd. of Educ. v. N.J. Sch. Constr. Corp., 405 N.J. Super. 132, 143 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 199 N.J. 540 (2009) (citing City of Newark v. Natural Res. Council, 82 N.J. 530, 539 (1980)). We will only decide whether the findings could reasonably have been reached upon the credible evidence in the record, considering the proofs as a whole. N.J. Soc'y for the Prev. of Cruelty to Animals v. N.J. Dep't. of Agric., 196 N.J. 366, 384-85 (2008). We are not otherwise authorized to substitute our judgment for that of the agency. Div. of Alcoholic Beverage Control v. Maynards, Inc., 192 N.J. 158, 183 (2007).
Consequently, our role in reviewing a final decision of the MVC is limited to four inquiries: (1) whether the agency's decision comports with Federal and State constitutional requirements; (2) whether the agency's action violates express or implied legislative policies; (3) whether the factual findings that provide a foundation for the agency's decision are based on substantial evidence; and (4) whether in applying the legislative policies to the facts, the agency clearly erred in reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made on a showing of the relevant factors. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999).
We find nothing in the proceedings before the MVC (or the OAL, for that matter) to give us pause or concern that appellant was deprived of an appropriate opportunity to reasonably develop his equitable arguments. The facts are undisputed and need no further embellishment. There is ample statutory and regulatory authority for the MVC's actions. N.J.S.A. 39:5-30.10; N.J.A.C. 13:19-10.6(a). In this case, the MVC's decision was based on a plain reading of a clear regulation. Appellant was given fair warning of the consequences of a subsequent motor vehicle violation within one year of the restoration of his driving privileges. There is no principled way that we can adjust the penalty imposed by the MVC.
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