On April 28, 2009, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Joan Ivan, Docket No.: A-1070-07T2.  Following a hearing conducted on April 15, 2003, appellant, Joan Ivan (“Ivan”), a Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer, was suspended for thirty days as the result of disciplinary charges stemming from her alleged failure to truthfully report smoking by a fellow officer while in an official vehicle. In contrast, the officer committing the prohibited offense, after pleading guilty, was given a four-day suspension that could be served use of vacation days. Ivan appealed to the Merit System Board on May 16, 2003.

Thereafter, on August 22, 2003, Ivan was terminated when, in nine attempts over three days, she was unable to requalify for use of her service weapon. She appealed on September 12, 2003 and she filed an order to show cause on September 19, 2003, in which she contended that the Sheriff’s Department had violated her right to due process of law as the result of its failure to conduct a hearing prior to termination. The Department reinstated Ivan and served her with a preliminary notice of disciplinary action on September 29, 2003. Following a hearing on September 30, 2003, Ivan was served, on October 14, 2003, with a final notice of disciplinary action removing her from her position.

The two matters were referred to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing, where they were consolidated for that purpose without objection. Following the hearing, at which testimony was given by numerous witnesses, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) recommended dismissal of the charge leading to Ivan’s suspension, but affirmance of the termination decision. No attorney’s fees were awarded. The Merit System Board adopted the ALJ’s decision, and this appeal followed. On appeal, Ivan challenged the Board’s failure to award counsel fees in connection with her appeal from the thirty day suspension, and she challenges the Board’s adoption of the ALJ’s findings with respect to her termination and the ALJ’s legal ruling with respect to the admissibility of expert testimony in connection with her termination.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Merit System Board’s determination in its entirety. Specifically, the Court rejected Ivan’s arguments that: (1) she was given insufficient opportunity to qualify with her weapon; (2) the ALJ should have admitted the testimony of her firearms qualification expert; and (3) she was entitled to counsel fees on her successful appeal from her suspension. After reviewing the decision of the ALJ and the Board in detail, the Court determined the Board’s action was supported by sufficient, credible evidence in the record as well as well-established statutory law and, therefore, was not arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.

 

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Photo of Donald C. Barbati Donald C. Barbati

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues…

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues litigated before the courts and administrative tribunals throughout the State of New Jersey. In addition, Mr. Barbati also routinely represents individuals in various types of public pension appeals, real estate transactions, and general litigation matters. He is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog, a free legal publication designed to keep New Jersey public safety officers up-to-date and informed about legal issues pertinent to their profession. During his years of practice, Mr. Barbati has established a reputation for achieving favorable results for his clients in a cost-efficient manner.

Mr. Barbati has also handled numerous novel legal issues while representing New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Most notably, he served as lead counsel for the Appellants in the published case In re Rodriguez, 423 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 2011). In that case, Mr. Barbati successfully argued on behalf of the Appellants, thereby overturning the Attorney General’s denial of counsel to two prison guards in a civil rights suit arising from an inmate assault. In the process, the Court clarified the standard to be utilized by the Attorney General in assessing whether a public employee is entitled to legal representation and mandated that reliance must be placed on up-to-date information.

Prior to becoming a practicing attorney, Mr. Barbati served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Linda R. Feinberg, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage. During his clerkship Mr. Barbati handled numerous complex and novel substantive and procedural issues arising from complaints in lieu of prerogative writs, orders to show cause, and motion practice. These include appeals from decisions by planning and zoning boards and local government bodies, bidding challenges under the Local Public Contract Law, Open Public Records Act requests, the taking of private property under the eminent domain statute, and election law disputes. In addition, Mr. Barbati, as a certified mediator, mediated many small claims disputes in the Special Civil Part.

Mr. Barbati received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, magna cum laude, from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Upon graduating, Mr. Barbati attended Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he received his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, graduating in the top five percent of his class. During law school, Mr. Barbati interned for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, assisting on various constitutional, employment, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals litigation, including numerous civil rights, social security, and immigration cases.