On appeal from the Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted August 16, 2011
Before Judges Waugh and Koblitz.
Appellant Dharuba Kalahari appeals the final administrative decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC) confiscating certain property belonging to him. We dismiss the appeal as moot.
We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.
Kalahari is an inmate at South Woods State Prison (SWSP) in Bridgeton. Kalahari was transferred from New Jersey State Prison in Trenton to SWSP in October 2009. In conformity with DOC's usual procedure, his property was transferred separately. Kalahari reported to the SWSP property officer on October 19 to collect his belongings. He was informed that certain items would not be turned over to him because they were not permitted at SWSP. The items at issue in this appeal are a calculator, approximately fifteen books, and two disposable razors, also referred to as "long razors" in the record.
Although Kalahari asserts that he informed the property officer that he wished to appeal the decision, he also signed a document stating that the items would be picked up, presumably by a friend or relative, during the next visit. On October 20, Kalahari executed an Inmate Remedy System Form (IRSF) appealing the seizure of those items. Shortly thereafter, he was told that he had submitted an incorrect form, and that he needed to submit a form for lost or destroyed property. He submitted another IRSF, reiterating that he was seeking an administrative review of the withholding of the items. He was again advised to submit the lost or destroyed property form. We note that both IRSFs quite clearly stated that Kalahari was seeking an administrative review of the decision that he could not possess the items at SWSP, rather than making a claim for lost or destroyed property.
Kalahari appealed on November 20, 2009. SWSP destroyed the property at issue on February 17, 2010. On March 25, DOC filed a motion for a temporary remand, which we granted on April 22. On May 28, the administrator of SWSP issued the following "decision" in response to the remand:
You were advised that specific property transferred to South Woods State Prison was not authorized for retention in accordance with SWSP Internal Management Procedures. You signed a document on October 19, 2009 advising you of this at which time you elected to have this property picked up on a visit. This property was never picked up on a visit and you were sent a second and last notice of non-permitted property on January 5, 2010 to elect a method of disposition of this unauthorized property. This notice further informed you that if you did not comply by February 5, 2010, this property would be disposed of by the mailroom. You never responded to this notice and the property was disposed of on February 17, 2010.
All actions regarding this unauthorized property were conducted in accordance with N.J.A.C. 10, NJ DOC Policy, and SWSP Internal Management Procedures. Additionally, this information was provided to you in your SWSP Inmate Handbook.
We note that the form signed by Kalahari with respect to the items seized does not offer an option of appealing the decision to confiscate the items, and that the January 5 form notifying him of the destruction date refers to a "tote" rather than the items listed on the form signed by Kalahari. The fact that the property had already been destroyed was apparently not disclosed to Kalahari in DOC's motion for a remand.
Following the remand, Kalahari supplemented his papers and DOC filed its appellate brief. Because the property at issue has been destroyed, we cannot afford any relief to Kalahari if we were to determine that SWSP acted improperly with respect to the seizure. Consequently, we must dismiss the appeal as moot. Generally, "courts should not decide cases where a judgment cannot grant relief." Marjarum v. Twp. of Hamilton, 336 N.J. Super. 85, 92 ...