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New Jersey Tenure Certificate Revocation or Suspensions Not Barred by Earlier Tenure Charge Arbitration, Appeals Court Says


Employment as a teacher and in many other New Jersey public school positions requires that the employee hold a certificate to work in their positions.  However, under certain1-300x225 circumstances, these certificates can be suspended or revoked, rendering the employee ineligible to work in their chosen profession.

The New Jersey Commissioner of Education can suspend the certificates of employee’s who leave before their term of employment ended without their employer’s consent.

The New Jersey State Board of Examiners is the New Jersey governmental licensing agency for public education.  The Board of Examiners can revoke or suspend an employee’s certificate for conduct unbecoming, incapacity, inefficiency if the employee lacks the requirements for the certificate, for conviction of certain crimes, or for other, just cause.


The Morison Case

In 2020, Raymond Morison was a tenured physical education teacher with the Willingboro Board of Education.  The Board or Education filed tenure charges against him alleging “conduct unbecoming a teaching staff member.”  The Commissioner of Education found that the charges, if true, could warrant termination or reduction in salary, and therefor appointed an arbitrator to hear the case under the TEACHNJ Act of 2012.  In March 2021, the arbitrator held an arbitration hearing, including live testimony from several witnesses, and issued a decision in April 2021.  The arbitrator found that while Morison had indeed committed conduct unbecoming, the conduct did not warrant dismissal.  Rather, the arbitrator ordered that Morison be suspended for the 2020-2021 academic year.  Neither Morison nor the Board of Education challenged the arbitrator’s decision, and it therefore became final.

In November 2021, however, the New Jersey State Board of Examiners determined that Morison’s teaching certificate should be revoked or suspended, and it entered an order to show cause for Morison to demonstrate why it should not.  The basis of the action was the arbitration decision which found that Morison had committed conduct unbecoming.

Morison filed a summary action in the Law Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking declaratory judgment that the arbitration decision finding that he should not be terminated should preclude the Board of Examiners from taking action against his certificate.  The Superior Court judge disagreed and rejected Morison’s claims.

Morison appealed the Law Division judge’s decision to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.  The Appellate Division affirmed the Law Division judge’s decision, finding that the arbitration decision on the tenure charges did not preclude the Board of Examiners from brining a action to suspend or revoke Morison’s teaching certificate.

The court explained that the Board of Examiners was not a party to the arbitration, the decisions of the arbitrator and Board of Examiners are reviewable by different courts (the Law Division and the Appellate Division, respectively), the subsequent revocation or suspension proceeding did not impinge on Morison’s due process rights, it was not double jeopardy because it did not involve criminal charges, and the arbitrator and Board of Examiners had different jurisdiction and had different powers which the other did not.  There was therefore no violation of any of Morison’s rights by seeking revocation or suspension of his teaching license.


The Takeaway

Both tenure charges and suspension or revocation proceedings can have a profound impact on an employee’s career.  Moreover, since an arbitration award does not preclude subsequent revocation or suspension an employee’s teaching certificate, it is important to fight the charges as soon as possible, and in every forum where they are brought.


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Our New Jersey employment lawyers represent employees, including public employees, and in all aspects of New Jersey employment law, including fighting against tenure charges and certificate revocation and suspension.  Call us at (973) 890-0004.  We can help.

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