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Paladino v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 11, 2013

BRIAN PALADINO, Appellant,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 29, 2013

On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Brian Paladino, appellant pro se.

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Andrew J. Sarrol, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Before Judges Alvarez and Waugh.

PER CURIAM

Appellant Brian Paladino appeals the final administrative agency decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) imposing discipline. We affirm.

Paladino is an inmate at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. DOC brought disciplinary charges against him arising out of his conduct on February 5, 2012. The charges included: *.306, conduct which disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the correctional facility; *.012, throwing bodily fluid at any person or otherwise purposely subjecting such person to contact with bodily fluids; *.202, possession or introduction of a weapon, such as but not limited to, a sharpened instrument, knife, or unauthorized tool; *.154, tampering with or blocking a locking device; and *.152, destroying, altering, or damaging government property. See N.J.A.C. 10A-4.4.1.

Paladino and his counsel substitute offered no evidence and declined to question witnesses at his hearing on February 10. Paladino also declined to make a statement. Counsel substitute requested "leniency." The hearing officer found Paladino guilty of all charges and imposed sanctions, including extended periods of administrative segregation, loss of commutation time, loss of recreation time, and restitution payments. Paladino was also referred for mental health follow-up.

Paladino filed an administrative appeal, in which he conceded that there was sufficient evidence to support the hearing officer's findings, but argued that the charges were not timely served. On March 5, the assistant superintendent upheld the findings and sanctions. This appeal followed.

On appeal, Paladino argues that his counsel substitute was ineffective, that the internal appeal process was inadequate, and that he was innocent of the charges.

Our role in reviewing an agency decision is limited. In re Stallworth, 208 N.J. 182, 194 (2011) (citing Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579 (1980)). Our function is to determine whether the administrative action was "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, " or "not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole." Ramirez v. Dep't of Corr., 382 N.J.Super. 18, 23 (App. Div. 2005) (quoting Henry, supra, 81 N.J. at 580). Substantial evidence means "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." In re Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 35 N.J. 358, 376 (1961) (quoting In re Hackensack Water Co., 41 N.J.Super. 408, 418 (App. Div. 1956)). "The burden of demonstrating that the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable rests upon the [party] challenging the administrative action." In re Arenas, 385 N.J.Super. 440, 443-44 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 188 N.J. 219 (2006).

We have reviewed Paladino's arguments in light of the applicable law and the record on appeal, and find them to be without merit and not warranting discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

Affirmed.


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