Law360.com reports on an ethics complaint filed against Arthur Bergman, a retired state superior court judge in New Jersey. Judge Bergman allegedly made an independent phone call to a potential witness in a case over which he was presiding. Rule 3.8 of New Jersey’s Code of Judicial Conduct states, “Except as otherwise authorized by law or court rule, a judge shall not initiate or consider ex parte or other communications concerning a pending or impending proceeding.”
Judge Bergman does not contest that he made the call to a potential witness in the family trust dispute, but he maintains that the purpose of the call was simply to check the witness’s availability for a plenary hearing. The judge’s phone message, however, never referenced a hearing, and ultimately no hearing took place. Upon learning about the call, one of the attorneys in the case asked the judge to recuse himself, but Judge Bergman refused.
Complicating the story is the fact that Judge Bergman suffers from Parkinson’s disease, which apparently makes it difficult for him to speak. He maintains that this is why he did not mention the hearing on the message.
The state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct is seeking a public censure, to send a message to other judges that such behavior is not appropriate. Judge Bergman’s own lawyer maintains that disciplining a retired judge would do nothing to preserve the integrity of the state judiciary.
What do you think, readers?