By Joshua Burd
Attorneys for the township of South Brunswick are accusing a former Superior Court judge of having a conflict of interest, citing his ties to a developer that he went to work for only months after ruling that the municipality must zone for at least 1,500 affordable housing units.
Published reports say the Middlesex County township has filed suit to overturn the ruling of then-Judge Douglas Wolfson, who presided over a high-profile trial involving South Brunswick’s low- and moderate-income housing obligations. The filing by Jeffrey Surenian, the attorney for the town and many others in the state, alleges that Wolfson “brazenly violated” the core value of remaining impartial.
According to the filing, a copy of which was posted by Politico New Jersey, Wolfson retired in late December and took a job as a partner and general counsel with Edgewood Properties. The filing also cites Wolfson’s longstanding connections to Edgewood prior to his four-year tenure on the bench, along with the fact that he returned to the New Brunswick courthouse just five days after retiring, representing the developer in an affordable housing case.
The case was ultimately transferred to another county, according to Politico, which noted that Edgewood was not a party to the original affordable housing case before Wolfson last year.
The former judge told Observer New Jersey on Friday that he could not comment on specific cases he heard but said “it is a matter of public record … that I disclosed to the court-appointed special masters and all counsel my relationship with Mr. Morris, and in fact recused myself from several cases in which he or any of his companies were adverse to either to the town or to any of the other potentially competing builder/intervenors who sought to gain a favorable rezoning through the litigation process.”
Politico reported that the Fair Share Housing Center, the advocacy group that has been leading the charge in pushing the judiciary to enforce municipal housing obligations, filed a response to South Brunswick’s filing. The organization said Wolfson’s “methodological reasoning was sound,” according to the report, adding that attorneys for South Brunswick knew about Wolfson’s ties to Edgewood well before he ever issued an opinion.
“This is gamesmanship that should not be tolerated,” Fair Share said, according to Politico New Jersey. “South Brunswick’s attorneys had a duty to raise any conflicts they believe existed prior to the trial and even during the trial if it became apparent that a conflict existed.”
For more, see Friday’s story by Politico New Jersey.
More New Jersey real estate headlines
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Editor’s note: The Rundown is a regular feature by Real Estate NJ in which we recap commercial real estate stories and headlines from across the state.