Lustberg said he expects Bergrin to follow through on his request for self-representation at a hearing set for Sept. 12.
Bergrin, 55, is accused of turning his Park Place law practice into a criminal enterprise that worked with and for some of the major drug dealers in North Jersey.
One source described Bergrin as "house counsel" for several major players in the drug underworld.
"No witness, no crime" was his signature phrase, say prosecutors and investigators who contend the tough-talking defense lawyer routinely used witness intimidation and murder to silence those who might testify against his drug-kingpin clientele.
Jailed since his arrest in 2009, Bergrin could be sentenced to life if convicted.
Bergrin's request to serve as his own attorney was contained in a letter from Lustberg to Martino last week.
If Martino approves the request - legal experts say such requests are seldom denied - Lustberg could serve as "stand by" counsel, a common practice in cases where a defendant is granted permission to represent himself.
The move, while fraught with logistical and technical problems, sets the stage for what could be high courtroom drama.
Three former codefendants, including Bergrin's mistress and top criminal associate, his onetime law partner, and a drug kingpin whom he represented, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with authorities.
As his own attorney, Bergrin would be able to cross-examine them and all other witnesses in the case.
"The cliche is that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client," said Rutgers University Law School Professor George Thomas. "But this may be the exception that proves the rule."
Thomas said, "The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. . . . This may be a smart move on his part."
Bergrin has spent years in criminal courtrooms, first as a prosecutor with the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, then with the U.S. Attorney's Office and later as a criminal defense lawyer.
Concerns about being conversant with the law and the ways of a trial - issues that often come into play when a layman asks to represent himself - are not problems for Bergrin, Thomas noted.
As important, he said, Bergrin through his opening statement and closing argument will get a chance to directly address the jury without subjecting himself to cross-examination.
For those reasons, Thomas said, Bergrin may have certain advantages by representing himself.
From a personal perspective, however, the neutrality and objectivity that a defense lawyer usually provides his client could be lost.
The charges against Bergrin are staggering.
His arrest sent shock waves through the legal community in New Jersey, where he was well-known for his flamboyant and aggressive style.
At the time of his arrest in May 2009, a federal prosecutor said that Bergrin had "become one of the criminals he represents."
He was, added a DEA official, "no different than a street gangster."
The indictment, which has twice been expanded over the last two years, alleges that Bergrin had one witness killed in a drug case and that he was conspiring to have another killed at the time of his arrest.
He is also charged with operating a multimillion-dollar cocaine-distribution network with his live-in girlfriend Yolanda Jauregui and with running a $1,000-a-hour call-girl operation for a former New York City client after the client was jailed on prostitution charges.
Jauregui, 38, is one of three key codefendants in the case who have pleaded guilty and are now cooperating.
The others are Thomas Moran, Bergrin's former law partner, and Vincente Esteves, a suspected drug kingpin.
Bergrin, Jauregui, Moran, and Esteves were charged with hiring a hit man from Chicago to kill a witness against Esteves in a drug case pending in Monmouth County.
The "hit man" was actually a cooperating government witness who recorded dozens of conversations in which the murder-for-hire scheme was discussed.
Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.