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Pierce v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

October 18, 2010


On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.


Submitted October 5, 2010

Before Judges Skillman and Yannotti.

Carl Pierce (Pierce), an inmate presently incarcerated in the State's correctional system, appeals from a final determination of the Special Administrative Segregation Review Committee (SASRC) dated August 7, 2009, which denied his request for transfer from administrative segregation. Pierce also appeals from the SASRC's decision dated August 21, 2009, denying his request for reconsideration of the August 7, 2009 determination. We affirm.

This appeal arises from the following facts. As a result of his convictions on three counts of aggravated assault, causing serious bodily injury contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1), Pierce was sentenced to an aggregate twelve years of incarceration, with a period of parole ineligibility as prescribed by the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. It appears that Pierce was initially incarcerated at South Woods State Prison (SWSP).

While Pierce was incarcerated at SWSP, the Department of Corrections (Department) found him guilty of committing certain disciplinary infractions in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a), specifically: .701, the unauthorized use of mail or telephones; .702, unauthorized contacts with the public; *.803/*.002, attempting to commit an assault or assaulting a person; and *005, threatening another with bodily harm or with any offense against his or her person. As a consequence, the Department imposed various sanctions, including 820 days of administrative segregation. We affirmed the findings of guilt and sanctions imposed. Pierce v. Dep't of Corrections, No. A-1133-07 (App. Div. July 11, 2008).

On or around September 27, 2007, Pierce was transferred to East Jersey State Prison (EJSP). According to the Department, Pierce was transferred to EJSP because none of the State's correctional facilities in the southern part of the State have an administrative segregation unit. Thereafter, Pierce made several requests for reconsideration and modification of the sanctions. Specifically, Pierce asked to be released from administrative segregation and returned to SWSP so that his ailing mother and seven-year-old daughter could visit him.

The SASRC denied Pierce's application on January 2, 2009. Pierce sought reconsideration of the SASRC's decision. On August 7, 2009, the SASRC denied Pierce's application, noting on the adjudication form that the nature of Pierce's disciplinary charges was serious and his return to general population "would continue to pose a serious threat to life, property, staff and/or other inmates, or to the security of the correctional facility." Pierce again sought reconsideration of the SASRC's determination and on August 21, 2009, the SASRC affirmed its earlier decision.

Pierce filed a notice of appeal on September 23, 2009. On October 16, 2009, Pierce was transferred from EJSP to Northern State Prison, where he was residing at the time he filed his briefs in this case.

Pierce argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the SASRC's decision to deny his transfer request. He contends that the SASRC's decision violated applicable standards, policies, procedures, rules, regulations and statutes and intentionally infringed upon his right to engage in visitation with his family. He contends that the denial of his transfer request was in retaliation for his filing of a civil rights complaint against the Department. Pierce further argues that he has been deprived without due process of law of a constitutionally protected liberty interest in maintaining a relationship with his family while incarcerated. We are satisfied that these contentions are "without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion." R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). However, we add the following brief comments.

It is well established that an inmate does not have a liberty interest in a particular housing assignment or custody status. White v. Fauver, 219 N.J. Super. 170, 178-79 (App. Div. 1987). Nevertheless, when reviewing a final determination of an administrative agency regarding such matters, we consider whether the agency acted arbitrarily and the inmate was afforded the process to which he is entitled. Id. at 180 (citing N.J. Parole Bd. v. Byrne, 93 N.J. 192, 207 (1983); Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 520 (1973)).

We are satisfied from our review of the record that there is sufficient credible evidence in the record to support the SASRC's decision to deny Pierce's application for a transfer to SWSP. We are also satisfied that, in rendering that decision, Pierce was afforded all of the process to which he was entitled.

We note that in his reply brief, Pierce states that he was released from administrative segregation on October 16, 2009 and thereafter submitted another request for a visitation hardship transfer. According to Pierce, the Department denied his application "without justification or cause." However, this appeal only concerns the SASRC's decisions of August 7 and 21, 2009, which were rendered when Pierce was in ...

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