November 17, 2011
ASIA ROBINSON, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
STATE-OPERATED SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF PATERSON, PASSAIC COUNTY, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Education, Docket No. 114-6/09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 25, 2011
Before Judges Carchman and Nugent.
Appellant Asia Robinson appeals from the final administrative decision of the Commissioner of Education (the Commissioner) that affirmed the summary decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and dismissed her petition as moot. We affirm.
The ALJ's findings of fact are stated succinctly:
Ms. Robinson was a senior at the [State-Operated School District of the City of Paterson's] Silk Academy, when, in or about October 2008, she was suspended in the aftermath of an altercation with a fellow student. A hearing was conducted before the district hearing committee on March 5, 2009.
The committee determined that Ms. Robinson had committed the offenses for which she was charged, but readmitted her to Silk Academy.
She graduated in June 2009, and is currently actively serving in the United States Marine Corps. The district has submitted the certification of its general counsel, Mark Tabenkin, Esq., who states that he has reviewed Ms. Robinson's student records and they contain no reference to the October 2008 disciplinary incident.
On June 4, 2009, Stephen H. Kent, describing himself as appellant's surrogate father, filed a "petition" with the Commissioner seeking an order dismissing the district hearing committee's disciplinary proceedings and expunging all of appellant's school records concerning those proceedings. The matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law on July 27, 2009. In October the School District filed a motion for summary decision, arguing that appellant's claim was moot.
On November 23, 2009, the ALJ dismissed Kent as a petitioner after determining that he should not be permitted to serve as a non-attorney representative of appellant.
On January 4, 2010, the ALJ entered an order placing the matter on the military inactive list. On July 13, 2010, the ALJ restored the matter to the active calendar and on September 15, 2010, denied appellant's request for a further adjournment and directed that appellant file opposition to the School District's motion to dismiss by October 15, 2010. After closing the record, the ALJ learned that appellant had retained counsel; the ALJ reopened the record to permit counsel to file opposition to the School District's motion. The ALJ closed the record on December 10, 2010, and issued a written "Summary Decision" on December 14, 2010. In her decision, the ALJ dismissed appellant's petition as moot.
On January 25, 2011, the Commissioner rendered a final administrative decision dismissing appellant's petition as moot. Appellant timely filed this appeal and raised the following issue:
THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE AND THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION ERRED IN RULING THAT THIS MATTER WAS PROPERLY DISMISSED AS MOOT.
"In administrative law, the overarching informative principle guiding appellate review requires that courts defer to the specialized or technical expertise of the agency charged with administration of a regulatory system." In re Application of Virtua-West Jersey Hosp. Voorhees for a Certificate of Need, 194 N.J. 413, 422 (2008). "Consistency with that principle demands that an appellate court ordinarily should not disturb an administrative agency's determinations or findings unless there is a clear showing that (1) the agency did not follow the law;
(2) the decision was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable; or
(3) the decision was not supported by substantial evidence." Ibid. (citations omitted). This standard includes appellate review of administrative decisions involving "disputes arising under school laws." Kaprow v. Bd. of Educ., 131 N.J. 572, 591 (1993) (citing Dennery v. Bd. of Educ., 131 N.J. 626, 641 (1993); Dore v. Bd. of Educ., 185 N.J. Super. 447, 452 (App. Div. 1982)).
We have considered appellant's arguments in light of the record and applicable law. We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the ALJ in her summary decision and in turn relied upon by the Commissioner. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D). Appellant's arguments do not warrant further discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
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