Lawrence Lustberg

Judge Martini could probably use a drink right now.

Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit delivered two stinging benchslaps of Judge William J. Martini (D.N.J.). The benchslaps were delivered in two different cases by two separate three-judge panels, but both opinions vacated rulings by Judge Martini and also directed that the cases be reassigned to new judges on remand.

Ouch. As noted by the Newark Star-Ledger, “[i]t amounted to an extremely rare and harsh rebuke of a well-known federal judge who once served in Congress.” (Before he was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2002, Bill Martini served a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives; he ran for re-election but was defeated.)

What did Judge Martini allegedly do to incur the wrath of the Third Circuit? And what did the opinions have to say about His Honor?

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Paul Bergrin

I’ll always be grateful to Paul Bergrin, the New Jersey federal prosecutor turned notorious criminal defense attorney. Thanks to him, I’ll never have to worry about being the most scandalous alumnus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

While working as an assistant U.S. attorney, I wrote a mildly snarky blog about federal judges, pretending to be a woman, until I outed myself in the pages of the New Yorker. That pales in comparison to what Bergrin stands accused of doing, including (but not limited to) the following: operating a real-estate scam, which defrauded lenders of over $1 million; running a high-volume drug dealership, which was apparently big enough to move 120 pounds of uncut cocaine; running an illegal escort service; and, most seriously of all, having witnesses murdered to keep them from testifying against his clients.

It’s hard to believe that Paul Bergrin was once a federal prosecutor. It’s not hard to believe that he is, in the words of New York magazine, “The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey.”

But let’s recall that the charges against Bergrin are just that — charges, which Bergrin disputes. Last week, represented by prominent defense lawyer Lawrence Lustberg, Bergrin appeared in federal court in Newark and pleaded not guilty to all 33 counts in the 139-page indictment. Bergrin’s trial is currently set for October 11 before Judge William J. Martini.

In light of the astounding charges leveled against him, Paul Bergrin has taken on a larger-than-life aura — the man, the myth, the legend. What is he really like?

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