New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters the Borough Hall in Fort Lee to apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich on January 9, 2014 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)
Randy Mastro can’t resist a good political fight.
The Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner and former New York City deputy mayor has been hired to advise New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in connection with the ongoing fallout from last fall’s closing of toll lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge.
Christie’s office announced Thursday that Mastro will lead a Gibson Dunn team hired to assist with an internal review of the events surrounding the four-day traffic snarl that plagued suburban Fort Lee as a result of the lane closings. Since the simmering controversy erupted into a full-blown scandal last week with the release of hundreds of pages of documents related to the bridge incident, four people close to the Republican governor have either resigned or been fired amid revelations that they may taken part in a scheme to deliberately shut the lanes down to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor.
Gibson Dunn will also assist the Christie administration with a separate investigation that local U.S. attorney Paul Fishman is conducting into the bridge matter, the release said.
“Their presence will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation, and they will be a valuable asset as we move forward,” a Christie spokesman said in a statement. “This administration is committed to ensuring that what happened here never happens again. That’s what the people of New Jersey deserve.”
Mastro did not return requests for comment Thursday, nor did a Gibson Dunn spokeswoman.
Gibson Dunn is the second Am Law 100 firm to take a role in what could prove to be a politically damaging episode for Christie, who is widely considered a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. On Wednesday, Jenner & Block partner Reid Schar—himself a former federal prosecutor whose credentials include leading the prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blogojevich—was hired to serve as ouside counsel to a New Jersey General Assembly committee conducting its own investigation into the bridge matter.
By bringing in a Gibson Dunn team, and Mastro in particular, Christie is adding considerable litigation muscle. The firm was named a finalist in both the general litigation and antitrust categories of The American Lawyer’s most recent Litigation Department of the Year contest after winning the general litigation title the previous two times.
Mastro’s workload of late has included representing Chevron Corp. as it tries to upend an Ecuadorian court’s $9.5 billion judgment against the oil giant for its contamination of a swath of the South American country’s rainforest. In his coverage of the federal fraud and extortion trial that pitted Chevron against Steven Donziger, the lawyer for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, The American Lawyer’s Michael Goldhaber called the proceedings “a rout” in favor of Chevron. In reaching that conclusion, Goldhaber pointed specifically to Mastro’s blistering examination of the Ecuadorian judge who issued the opinion in the underlying case.
As The Am Law Daily has previously reported, in the 16 years since he left New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration and returned to Gibson Dunn, Mastro has frequently thrown himself into the political fray, usually in opposition to government entities. Mastro, along with Gibson Dunn partner Jim Walden, another former federal prosecutor, have often sued New York agencies as part of the firm’s so-called good government pro bono practice.
Most recently, Mastro celebrated a judge’s decision to block half of a massive expansion of New York University on the grounds that then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not obtain the state legislature’s approval before ceding control of three small public parks to the school. Gibson Dunn has represented community groups and a university coalition that filed a suit last fall against the city’s transportation department, parks department, planning commission, and several other agencies (NYU says the ruling won’t stop it from beginning construction on its largest planned new building).
Mastro’s political allegiances often straddle both sides of a race. Last year, he contributed to the campaigns of several New York Democrats—including newly installed Mayor Bill de Blasio, mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson, and new public advocate Letitia James—and Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota, Mastro’s successor as Giuliani’s deputy mayor for operations.
Mastro has not contributed to any recent political campaigns on the other side of the Hudson River, according to a search of New Jersey state finance records.