NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A Middlesex County Supreme Court judge said he attempted to contact a potential witness to gauge his availability to appear at a hearing in a legal matter between siblings focused on repairs done to a Millstone home.
When Judge Arthur Bergman failed to hold that plenary hearing or even address it with attorneys in the case, court documents claim “he created the appearance that he was being less than candid with the parties and their counsel when offering this justification, thereby impugning his integrity and that of the Judiciary.”
Charges of initiating independent communications – in legal parlance, ex parte contact – were at the core of the first of a three-count formal complaint filed against Bergman by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct on Monday.
The complaint is signed by Maureen G. Bauman, Disciplinary Counsel.
Although Count II also refers to Bergman’s actions in reaching out to the potential witness, Count III refers to Bergman’s alleged instructions to his law clerk to conduct an independent factual investigation to obtain personal information about the one of the parties’ daughters, done without their knowledge.
According to the third count, Bergman relied on the information gleaned from the investigation when drawing "negative inferences” about one of the parties’ credibility.
Bergman could not be reached for comment. A court voice message indicated the extension published on njcourts.gov is a non-working number and instructs callers to send an email. The message states that the email will be in use through Oct. 2.
Records indicate Bergman, 69, has served in Superior Court since 2006. He earned a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College University and earned his law degree from William & Mary.
Recently, he heard a case involving the demolition of the Lincoln Annex school at 165 Somerset Street in New Brunswick to make way for the state's first free-standing cancer hospital.
Bergman was hearing the case between Michael Hennessy, who initially sought to have his brother, John, removed as trustee of two trusts established by their parents for the benefit for the five Hennessy siblings.
John indicated in 2016 that he accepted the Millstone home as his in-kind trustee distribution and allow his daughter, Thiel Hennessy Dragon, to act as its caretaker.
Bergman in 2018 ordered John to sell the home to the highest bidder, which turned out to be Michael.
John sought to be reimbursed for more than $110,000 in repairs to the home and presented documentation that the work was done by Ben Oskierko, owner of Boss Landscaping.
Bergman called Oskierko, leaving a voice mail that did not make mention of a pending plenary hearing, according to the complaint filed against him by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.
The judge also instructed his law clerk to check Dragon's marriage date and see whether she owned her own "marital home" while living in the Millstone home.
The complaint charges that Bergman has violated several canons of the code of judicial conduct, including Canon 3, Rule 3.8 “which prohibits a judge from initiating ex parte communications concerning a pending or impending proceeding.”
The complaint does not indicate if or when a hearing will be held.