In an unexpected move, the lawyer for Gov. Chris Christie’s office in the George Washington Bridge scandal withdrew this week as counsel to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in an ongoing federal lawsuit, setting off speculation about what it means and why he did it.
Randy Mastro, a head litigation partner of the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, represents the governor’s office in the bridge scandal and other controversies tied to Hurricane Sandy aid. At the same time, he had served for more than a year as a lead attorney for the Port Authority in a federal lawsuit focused on controversial toll hikes.
Christie hired Mastro in January after the disclosure of emails showing that a Christie aide allegedly orchestrated a four-day closure of two local-access lanes to the bridge, causing massive traffic jams in Fort Lee. Many suspect the closures were retaliation after the borough’s Democratic mayor didn’t endorse the Republican governor for re-election.
In recent weeks, some attorneys and legal observers had expressed concern about Mastro’s dual role, especially because Mastro’s duties for Christie include his firm assisting with an internal review of the governor’s office’s actions, including events tied to the Port Authority.
On Wednesday, Mastro quietly withdrew as counsel to the Port Authority in the ongoing lawsuit brought in federal court in Manhattan by the New York and North Jersey chapters of the AAA. The suit aims to block toll increases at six bistate bridges and tunnels, contending that the Port Authority violated federal law by imposing toll hikes as part of a plan to finance certain capital projects unrelated to transportation.
Mastro declined comment Friday. In mid-January, he told the Wall Street Journal through a spokesperson that there was no conflict of interest in his “firm’s separate representation of the Port Authority and the governor’s office in these separate matters.”0
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