Two former aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were ordered by a judge to explain their refusal to turn over documents sought in a legislative probe of intentional traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge.
Lawmakers sued two days ago to enforce subpoenas on William Stepien, Christie's former campaign manager, and Bridget Anne Kelly, his ex-deputy chief of staff. Both refused to turn over e-mails, text messages and other documents on the grounds that the lawmakers' demand violated their constitutional right against self-incrimination and unreasonable searches.
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A joint Senate and Assembly panel is probing why Christie allies ordered a shutdown of access lanes to the bridge from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12, causing gridlock in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, said he believes the tie-ups were meant to punish him because he didn't endorse the re-election bid of Christie, a Republican weighing a White House run.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson yesterday ordered Stepien and Kelly to appear before her on March 11 to explain why they won't comply with a request for documents. Both must submit written responses to the order by March 3, Jacobson said.
"We're reviewing the papers and will respond accordingly," Kevin Marino, a lawyer for Stepien, said in a phone interview. Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, didn't immediately respond to a voice-mail message left at his office seeking comment on the court's order.
The lawsuits filed in state court in Trenton seek a court declaration that Stepien and Kelly "failed, without justification, to produce documents in accordance with the subpoena." They also asked the court to compel the former aides to hand over the requested documents.
The lawsuits are New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigations v. Kelly, L-350-14, and New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigations v. Stepien, MER-L-354-14, Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County (Trenton).