Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Gwb Report Lawyers Fight Call to Testify

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Gwb Report Lawyers Fight Call to Testify

Article excerpt

Eight lawyers from a New York firm whose state-financed investigation cleared Governor Christie of blame in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal are asking a judge to block them from testifying at the upcoming corruption trial of two of the governor's former allies.

In a letter filed Sunday, the attorneys from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher said defense lawyers for Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, have subpoenaed five partners and three associates, demanding that they appear to testify at her trial in federal court in Newark.

One of the lawyers the defense team wants to testify, Debora Wong Yang, has close personal ties to Christie and raised money for his presidential campaign, hosting an event at her home in Los Angeles.

That relationship and the potential for a conflict of interest was one of several issues raised by critics of the report prepared by those lawyers. Many found fault with the report - including U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton, who lambasted the team for not keeping notes of their interviews.

Kelly is scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 12 with Bill Baroni, a former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, on charges that they conspired with others to create traffic chaos in Fort Lee to punish the borough's mayor for not endorsing Christie's reelection in 2013.

In his letter, Gibson Dunn partner Randy M. Mastro asked Wigenton to permit the firm to file a motion to quash or limit the scope of the subpoenas if he cannot amicably resolve the issue with Kelly's attorneys.

"They are subject to subpoena just like anyone else," Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, said Monday. "Anything I'm going to ask them about is not subject to attorney-client or work-product privilege," he added.

Critchley said he wants to question the Gibson Dunn lawyers about the interview memos they have publicly filed and, more particularly, about statements attributed to certain people who have since claimed they are not factual, raising credibility issues.

New Jersey taxpayers have spent nearly $8.2 million since Gibson Dunn was retained in January 2014 to represent the governor's office to handle the fallout from the bridge scandal.

While Christie claimed the Gibson Dunn report exonerated him of having had any advance knowledge of the lane closings or being part of any subsequent coverup, critics have cited the absence of interviews with key participants in the lane closures or with former Port Authority Chairman David Samson as major flaws.

Another flaw cited was the lack of notes from the interviews the lawyers did conduct. Their notes were condensed into summaries of the interview - a practice that Wigenton previously commented on in an opinion. She wrote, "The taxpayers of the state of New Jersey paid [Gibson Dunn] millions of dollars to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation. …

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