Monday December 10, 2007, 9:30 PM Six months after he teased, tortured and impressed millions of viewers with his stunningly abrupt series finale, David Chase finally has some answering to do about "The Sopranos." And this time, he'll do it under oath. Chase is expected to testify in Trenton against a former North Jersey municipal judge who, for years, has claimed he helped create the blockbuster series and deserves to be paid for it. The former judge, Robert Baer, even promises to introduce jurors to the Jerseyan he alleges was the real-life inspiration for Tony Soprano during a trial that opens Wednesday in federal court. The HBO series transformed Chase from a respected but little-known screenwriter into one of television's most respected producers. The show collected a mantel full of Emmys, and Chase reaped millions of dollars. Critics, fans and bloggers have long sought to trace the gritty characters, plots and locales back to their real-life inspiration. While Chase has discussed the subject in interviews over the years, court papers in the case provide the fullest account yet. Baer, also a former prosecutor in Hudson and Union counties, first filed his breach-of-contract lawsuit five years ago, claiming it was he who suggested to Chase in 1995 the idea of a mob show based in New Jersey. Chase has acknowledged enlisting Baer's help during his research, but has dismissed Baer's claims as "egocentric fantasies." Baer has not found a sympathetic audience in U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano. The judge dismissed the case twice, citing the statute of limitations. An appeals court overturned Pisano both times, but upheld much of his rulings. The case survived, but was narrowed dramatically. As the suit continued this spring, Pisano ruled that it is "clear" Baer did not assist in the creation or development of "The Sopranos." But he found Baer acted as a location scout, researcher and consultant. He said a jury should decide if and how much he should be paid.