On January 14, 2020, the Supreme Court will hear argument in Kelly v. United States (No. 18-1059), coined the Bridgegate case. We are eager to see how the Court resolves this appeal because it raises important issues relating to the scope of money-or-property fraud prosecutions.
The material facts in the case are largely undisputed: in 2013, senior officials for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) reallocated lanes over the George Washington Bridge. Of the twelve lanes on the upper level of the bridge, three were generally reserved for drivers coming from local Fort Lee, New Jersey streets (“Local Access Lanes”) and the remaining nine were reserved for drivers traveling on various highways, including I-95 (“Main Line”). The reallocation reduced the number of Local Access Lanes to one and increased the number of Main Line lanes to eleven. Unsurprisingly, the reallocation caused massive gridlock in Fort Lee and expedited traffic flow on the Main Line.
The stated reason for the lane reallocation—issued to Port Authority employees by David Wildstein, Chief of Staff to William E. Baroni, Jr., Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority—was to study traffic patterns and determine whether the Port Authority would continue to reserve three Local Access Lanes for Fort Lee going forward. In reality, the government alleged, the traffic study was a sham justification used to conceal the true purpose for the reallocation; according to the government, Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff to erstwhile Governor Chris Christie, hatched the lane reallocation strategy as retribution for Fort Lee’s mayor refusing to endorse Governor Christie’s reelection.