Report: Bridge-gate May Have Been Over Judicial Nominee

Sunday, 12 Jan 2014 09:16 AM

By Greg Richter

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Bridge-gate may not have been retaliation over a failed gubernatorial endorsement at all, but rather a fight over state Supreme Court nominees.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow first theorized the connection on her show on Thursday, noting that the email ordering "traffic problems in Fort Lee" came just 12 hours after an angry Gov. Chris Christie removed a Supreme Court justice's name from re-election in a fight with Democratic state senators.

The issue began in 2010 when Christie refused to submit the name of Democratic Justice John Wallace for renomination – something that no governor had done since the state constitution was rewritten in the 1940s. Under the constitution, Supreme Court justices are nominated for initial seven-year terms, then can be re-nominated after serving the first term. If confirmed again, they can serve until age 70.

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Republican Christie declined to renominate Wallace at the end of his initial seven years even though there had been no complaints about his service, Maddow said.

Democrats were furious, and fights ensued over the next two nominees. Then, when a Republican, Helen Hoens, came up for nomination in 2013, Democrats vowed to fight.

Christie held a press conference on Aug. 12, pulling Hoens off the bench because, he said, "I was not going to let her loose to the animals." Democrats should have thought about the ramifications "before opening their mouths," he added.

The next morning, Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly sent out an email saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Fort Lee is in the district of New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

Weinberg told the New York Post she believes there is more to the story. "The governor hasn’t come clean yet," she said.

Most news organizations have been reporting that the closing of lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge leading into New York City from Fort Lee, N.J., was retaliation against Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse him in his re-election bid. But Maddow noted that both Sokolich and Christie had downplayed those theories, with Sokolich noting that the governor had never pressed him for an endorsement.

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