On August 8, 2017, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that Essex County Judge Thomas R. Vena applied the incorrect legal standard on June 25, 2015 when he affirmed a hearing officer’s determination that a Roseland police officer should fired.
According to the Appellate Division’s ruling, misconduct charges were filed against former Roseland police officer Freddie Mitchell “arising from his involvement in a marital dispute and relating to his failure to obey the department’s order to submit weekly reports and other measures to remediate [Mitchell’s] alleged issues.” Roseland’s Borough Council adopted the recommendation of a retired Superior Court judge, who presided over Mitchell’s administrative hearing, that Mitchell be fired. When Mitchell appealed, Judge Vena incorrectly applied the “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable” standard in reviewing the hearing officer’s and the Borough’s decisions. According to the Appellate Division panel, Vena should have used the less deferential “de novo” standard.
The panel remanded the case back to Essex County and a new trial is scheduled for October 16, 2017, 9 a.m. before Judge Dennis F. Carey, III.