On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct issued a presentment recommending the removal of Judge R. Douglas Hoffman from the municipal court bench. The presentment stems from an ethics complaint filed against Judge Hoffman regarding inappropriate conduct with a subordinate court employee in October 2022.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Judge R. Douglas Hoffman,” with case number ACJC 2023-051.

The presentment details that on October 15, 2022, Judge Hoffman, who serves as a part-time judge in Robbinsville Township municipal court, invited court staff to visit his summer home whenever they were in the area. On that day, L.W., a Robbinsville court employee since April 2021, accepted Judge Hoffman’s open invitation and arrived at his home alone around 11:30 am. Judge Hoffman, who is 49 years older than L.W., proceeded to drink alcohol liberally with her over a three-hour period.

According to the findings, Judge Hoffman consumed at least one beer and four shots of whiskey, while providing the same amount of beer and shots to L.W. The presentment notes they occupied parts of the home where no one else was present as Judge Hoffman’s son and his girlfriend were elsewhere on the property. While sitting together on the couch, Judge Hoffman inappropriately touched L.W. twice without her consent – once on the knee and another time on her inner thigh.

L.W. left Judge Hoffman’s home abruptly after the second touch. When she returned about an hour later to retrieve her car keys, she told Judge Hoffman that she had too much to drink and was leaving with her mother. That evening, L.W. contacted her supervisor hysterically crying and relaying the details of her interaction with Judge Hoffman, including the unwanted touches.

The Committee found that Judge Hoffman’s actions constituted serious violations of judicial ethics canons regarding integrity, avoiding impropriety, and demeaning the judicial office. While Judge Hoffman reluctantly acknowledged providing alcohol to L.W. was improper, he denied any wrongdoing regarding the touches. However, the Committee deemed L.W.’s version of events to be credible based on her immediate reaction and disclosure.

At the disciplinary hearing in October and November 2023, the Committee heard testimony from Judge Hoffman, L.W., and other witnesses. In its presentment, the Committee concluded there was clear and convincing evidence that Judge Hoffman violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. Due to the blatant misconduct and Judge Hoffman’s disrespectful demeanor during the proceedings, the Committee recommended that he be removed from the bench. The matter now goes before the New Jersey Supreme Court for final adjudication.

Judge Hoffman’s courtroom is located at 1117 Route 130 North, Robbinsville, NJ 08691, and can be reached at (609) 259-3522 Ext. 2200.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.