June 4, 2013
BASIL HILL, Appellant,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 15, 2013
On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
Basil Hill, appellant pro se.
Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Roshan D. Shah, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Before Judges Graves and Guadagno.
Appellant, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC), appeals from a final administrative determination imposing disciplinary sanctions pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a), for committing prohibited act *.004 (fighting). After careful consideration of appellant's arguments, we affirm the administrative finding that he violated *.004 as well as the disciplinary sanctions imposed for that violation.
On February 9, 2012, Senior Corrections Officer (SCO) Dekis observed Hill and another inmate, Christopher Demunguia, fighting and kicking each other in the prison yard. SCO Dekis notified prison staff of the altercation and gave several orders to the inmates to stop fighting. Due to the number of other inmates in the yard, correction officers responded equipped with riot gear. The two inmates were ordered to the ground and handcuffed.
Both inmates were charged with *.004 (fighting) and *.306 (conduct that disrupts). Hill's disciplinary hearing was conducted on the following day. Hill requested and was appointed counsel substitute. Hill's defense was that Demunguia "jumped" him and knocked him out. Hill's counsel substitute offered Hill's medical records which indicate cuts on Hill's pinky and ring fingers, a small cut to his right cheek, and abrasions to both knees. Hill called no witnesses and did not seek to cross examine SCO Dekis.
Relying on SCO Dekis's report and the medical records, the hearing officer found Hill guilty of fighting. The hearing officer noted that SCO Dekis observed both men exchanging punches and kicks and that Hill failed to provide any corroboration of his version of the events. Also, Hill's claim of being knocked out was not supported by medical evidence and contradicted by SCO Dekis's observations. Hill received sanctions of fifteen days in detention and three-hundred days in administrative segregation.
Hill appealed, claiming he did not punch Demunguia and there was video of the incident that would support his position. The Assistant Superintendent denied Hill's appeal.
On appeal, Hill argues "that the correctional officers and the administration failed to investigate this fighting charge from the beginning. As I believe protocol would have them view the video #24 and I would of or should of never been charged with 004-never locked up."
Our role in reviewing the decision of an administrative agency is limited. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999); Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). Agency decisions carry with them a presumption of reasonableness. City of Newark v. Natural Resource Council 82 N.J. 530 539 cert denied 449 U.S. 983 101 S.Ct. 400 66 L.Ed.2d 245 (1980) We will not upset the determination of an administrative agency absent a showing that it was arbitrary capricious or unreasonable; lacked fair support in the evidence; or violated legislative policies In re Musick 143 N.J. 206 216 (1996); Henry v. Rahway State Prison 81 N.J. 571 579-80 (1980); Campbell v. Dep't of Civil Serv 39 N.J. 556 562 (1963)
The decision of the hearing officer finding Hill guilty of fighting (*004) was supported by substantial credible evidence in the record SCO Dekis observed Hill and Demunguia exchanging punches and kicks Hill did not seek to cross-examine SCO Dekis or call any witnesses to support his version of the incident Hill's claim that he was knocked out is contradicted by SCO Dekis who observed defendant fighting Demunguia Moreover the medical evaluation gives no indication that Hill ever lost consciousness