On June 11, 2009, the Appellate Division decided Michael Kappre v. Borough of Paulsboro, Docket No.: A-3573-07T3. In the case, the Paulsboro Police Chief filed misconduct charges against Michael Kappre, a former patrolman and sniper for the Paulsboro Police Department’s SWAT team. The Borough of Paulsboro sought Kappre’s termination. Kappre pleaded not guilty to the charges filed and a hearing was held before a hearing officer. Following administrative review, the hearing officer upheld the decision to terminate Kappre.
Kappre filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs, seeking a de novo review pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:14-150. Judge Farrell heard additional testimony from Kappre and Chief Thomas Sullivan of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office and rendered factual findings and conclusions in a written opinion. The trial judge sustained three charges of insubordination and untruthfulness and one charge of incapacity to hold office. Accordingly, Judge Farrell concluded the charges warranted Kappre’s removal. This appeal ensued.
On appeal, Kappre argued the charges lodged against him should have been dismissed because the record does not support his conduct demonstrated insubordination. Moreover, Kappre asserted there was a lack of credible evidence in the record to suggest he committed misconduct and the trial judge erred in discounting the testimony of his expert.
After evaluating the record in light of the arguments raised by Kappre in conjunction with the applicable legal standards, the Appellate Division affirmed Judge Farrell’s determinations. The Court was satisfied from its review of the record that Judge Farrell’s findings of fact were supported by substantial credible evidence and the conclusions based thereon should not be disturbed. Specifically, the Court noted that deference to Judge Farrell’s findings, which include determinations of credibility, was particularly appropriate in this case since they were substantially influenced by his opportunity to hear and see the witnesses and to have the “feel” of the case, which the Appellate Division, as a reviewing court, cannot enjoy.