On July 20, 2010, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Latief Dickerson, Hudson County, Docket No.: A-1323-08T2. In the case, Latief Dickerson appealed from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission (“Commission”) terminating his employment as a corrections officer with the Hudson County Department of Corrections (“Department”).

On May 5, 2006, the Department served a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action on Dickerson charging him with: (1) incompetency, inefficiency or failure to perform duties; (2) insubordination; (3) conduct unbecoming an employee; and (4) neglect of duty. These charges stemmed from Dickerson’s failure to satisfy mandatory training requirements and to obtain permission for his outside employment, as well as his arrest in Tuxedo, New York for various motor vehicle violations and criminal possession of a firearm.

Following a departmental hearing, Dickerson received a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action on July 19, 2006, finding him guilty of the charges and ordering his removal from office effective immediately. Dickerson contested the decision and requested a hearing before the Office of Administrative Law. That hearing was held on January 2 and March 12, 2008, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).

After the hearings, the ALJ determined that the Department failed to sustain its burden in sustaining the charges against Dickerson with the exception of conduct unbecoming a public employee by driving a motor vehicle while unlicensed. However, given Dickerson’s extensive prior disciplinary history, the ALJ ordered that Dickerson be fined 90 working days’ pay.

The Commission, upon its de novo review of the record, disagreed with the ALJ’s decision and upheld the Department’s decision to terminate Dickerson’s employment. This appeal followed.

On appeal, Dickerson argued that the Commission erred in failing to affirm the decision of the ALJ. Specifically, Dickerson contended that the Commission imposed an improper standard of review when it stated that it did not “agree” with the ALJ’s determination. Rather, Dickerson argued the Commission has the authority to modify or reverse the decision of the ALJ if the decision was not supported by credible evidence in the record or was otherwise arbitrary.

After considering Dickerson’s arguments, the Appellate Division affirmed the Commission’s determination and sustained the removal. The Court found the Commission’s decision comported with the applicable law regarding the review of ALJ decisions and was supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. Specifically, the Court found, in rejecting and modifying the ALJ’s findings and conclusions, the Commission stated with particularity the reasons for doing so and made new findings supported by competent and credible evidence in the record.

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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.