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Edwin Ortiz v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

July 21, 2011

EDWIN ORTIZ, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 4, 2011

Before Judges A.A. Rodriguez and LeWinn.

In September 2007, while confined at East Jersey State Prison (EJSP), inmate Edwin Ortiz filed a claim for personal property lost, damaged or destroyed during a search of his cell. The inmate was held out of his cell for approximately seven hours due to a prison shut-down following a riot. He claimed that upon returning to his cell he noticed some of his personalty strewn about and other items missing or damaged. He completed and submitted the requisite Form 943-I in which he identified thirteen items ranging in value from $250 (a Sony radio) to $2.50 (a plastic bowl).

On June 11, 2008, Lieutenant R. Hampe issued a report of his investigation of the inmate's claim, stating:

Although [the inmate] provided documentation for some of the items, I could not find any records or reports to support the seizure of these numerous items. A seizure of items this substantial would not have gone unnoticed and would have been documented. I could not find any merit to this claim to support it and recommend it be denied.

On March 31, 2009, the Associate Administrator of EJSP notified the inmate that his claim had been denied, stating that the "investigation revealed that [t]here is no record of seizure to support your claim."

The inmate appealed that decision to the EJSP Administrator on April 22, 2009. He asserted that his "claim was not based on seizure, but rather it was based on damage to [his] personal property, including personal property taken from [his] cell without due process of law." The inmate did not identify which property had been damaged and which was missing.

On April 24, 2009, the Administrator denied the inmate's appeal for the reasons stated in the March 31 decision of the Assistant Administrator. The denial was also based on N.J.A.C. 10A:2-6.2(a)(5), which requires an inmate to supply "sufficient information . . ., including proper receipts, witnesses and investigative reports[.]"

The inmate appealed and while his appeal was pending the Department of Corrections (DOC) moved for a remand for further investigation of the inmate's claim. We granted that motion on August 26, 2010.*fn1

On remand, the inmate was again interviewed in an effort to determine which items were damaged and which were missing. On October 20, 2010, Chief Antonio Campos, who appears to be the Director of Custody Operations at EJSP, submitted his investigation report to the EJSP Claims Committee. The report indicates that, in addition to being interviewed, the inmate was given a typed questionnaire to complete, which is quoted in the report as follows:

Q: List all damaged items. A: Sony headphones, night lamp, water bottles, sneakers, gym shorts, fan, surge protector, radio, hot pot, ...


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