On Monday, September 18, 2023, the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct filed an amended formal complaint against Lewis J. Korngut, a municipal court judge in Lawrence Township. Korngut was first appointed as a judge in Lawrence Township in 2017 and continues to hold that position today.
The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 1, Rule 1.1, Canon 2, Rule 2.1; Canon 3, Rule 3.4; Canon 3, Rule 3.5; Canon 3, Rule 3.8; Canon 3, Rule 3.17(A) and (B); and Canon 5, Rule 5.1(B)(2), which states:
Judges to observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved;
Judges to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety and to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary;
Judges to maintain order and decorum in judicial proceedings;
Judges are to be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity;
Judges are prohibited from initiating ex parte communications concerning a pending or impending proceeding;
Judges are prohibited from participating in proceedings in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned; and
Judges are prohibited from participating in activities that would appear to reasonable, fully informed persons to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.
The complaint alleges several violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct against Korngut. In one case from October 2020, Korngut engaged in an improper ex parte conversation with a police officer about details of a pending DUI case. The complaint also accuses Korngut of repeatedly having improper ex parte communications with the municipal prosecutor about pending cases between January and June 2022.
On April 29, 2022, Korngut reviewed an accident report in a pending case that had not been shared with the attorneys and then improperly spoke to the investigating officer about the facts of the case. In another matter on May 10, 2022, after the defendant pled guilty, Korngut had off-the-record discussions with the prosecutor about the strength of the state’s case and the availability of a retired officer to testify at trial.
The complaint also alleges that Korngut regularly socialized with police officers from Lawrence Township, including attending sporting events together and frequenting a local restaurant. In August 2022, Korngut attended a police retirement party and gifted football tickets to the township’s code enforcement officer who regularly appears before the judge.
Finally, the complaint accuses Korngut of repeatedly using profanity in earshot of court staff and attorneys between May and August 2022 when frustrated with his computer.
If the ethics charges are upheld, Korngut could face disciplinary action ranging from a public reprimand to removal from the bench.
The judge earned a law degree from Seton Hall Law School in 1986. The judge’s courtroom is located at 2211 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrence Township in New Jersey, and can be reached at 609-844-7157. His bio can be found here.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.