Saturday, April 12, 2014
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie and other defendants will get more time to file their responses to two lawsuits related to the September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that are central to a traffic jam scandal threatening the Republican governor's political ambitions.
Christie has denied any involvement in the closures, which were orchestrated by former Christie aides, apparently as political retribution. The closings caused four days of traffic mayhem in Fort Lee, the town at the base of the bridge, after the Democratic mayor did not endorse Christie for re-election.
Christie was among several defendants scheduled to respond to the lawsuits by Friday. But U.S. District Judge William Walls wrote last week that he must decide other issues, such as whether the two lawsuits will be consolidated, before the defendants must respond.
Others targeted in the suits include former Christie campaign chairman Bill Stepien, ex-deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and former Port Authority officials Bill Baroni and David Wildstein.
One lawsuit was filed by several people who said they were late for work because of the traffic jams caused by the closures. The second complaint was filed by several limo and taxi companies. Among the claims they make are deprivation of constitutional rights to due process and freedom of movement, official misconduct, conspiracy and racketeering.
The lane closures also are the subject of investigations by the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey and a state legislative committee. The closings have led to Kelly's firing and the resignations of Wildstein and Baroni. Christie has cut off ties with Stepien.
Christie, considered a possible contender for the 2016 presidential race, has said he had no knowledge of the planning or execution of the lane closings until well afterward, and a taxpayer-funded report by lawyers hired by Christie arrived at the same conclusions.