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Former Superior Court Judge Arthur Bergman. (Photo: New Jersey Courts).

Supreme Court will hear ethics complaint against ex-judge

By New Jersey Globe Staff, August 17 2022 5:37 pm

An ethics complaint filed against former Superior Court Judge Arthur Bergman in 2020 moved one more step toward completion on Wednesday with the New Jersey Supreme Court setting a hearing date next month to decide whether to discipline him or dismiss the grievance.

The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has recommended that Bergman be publicly reprimanded for violating judiciary rules as the judge in an estate trust challenge.   The Supreme Court can either affirm that proposal, go tougher, or take no action at all.

Bergman reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in March 2021, but retired judges may still be disciplined.

He has filed a motion to dismiss with the court.

Bergman presided over a civil case in which Michael Hennessy sued his brother, John Hennessy, seeking to remove him as the administrator of two trusts established by their deceased parents.

The ACJC’s complaint claims Judge Arthur Bergman, without informing either Hennessy or their attorneys, contacted Benjamin Oskierko, the owner of a contracting firm that made renovations to a Millstone home belonging to the trust.

John Hennessy and his daughter acted as caretakers for the home, which John Hennessy sought his part of the estate in August 2016.   He was unopposed then and began using his own funds for home improvements to the property in early 2017.

In November that year, Michael Hennessy claimed his brother had no right to the home as an in-kind distribution from the trust.  The judge agreed and ordered the home be sold to the highest bidder in May 2018.

John Hennessy then sought reimbursement for the home improvements, which he paid for from his own pocket.

In attempting to confirm those payments were made for the benefit of the trust and not John Hennessy and his daughter, Bergman called Oskierko and left him a voicemail message mentioning his landscaping company’s certification.

He did not mention a then-pending plenary hearing regarding the reimbursements and denied the request without speaking to Oskierko.

“Though believing himself ‘duty’ bound to determine Mr. Oskierko’s availability for a plenaiy hearing, Respondent did not wait for a return telephone call from Mr. Oskierko before issuing his decision in the matter on the next business day,” the ACJC complaint says.

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