Lawsuit to Nowhere? Gov. Christie, N.J. Sued Over Bridge Lane Closure

By Brett Snider, Esq. on January 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal is now the focus of a proposed federal class-action lawsuit, naming Gov. Chris Christie and the state of New Jersey as defendants.

Not wanting to miss anyone irritated by what some are calling "Bridgegate," the proposed class-action suit seeks to include "any and all individuals and business owners" who were inconvenienced or hurt by the bridge's lane closures in mid-September, reports Politico.

But is this suit a bridge too far?

Bridges of Class-Action County

For those unfamiliar with the George Washington Bridge, it's the world's busiest in terms of traffic, spanning the Hudson River to connect Fort Lee, New Jersey, to New York City.

In the proposed class-action complaint, New Jersey attorney Rosemary Arnold argues that commuters were "deprived of life, liberty and property for several hours" during the period from September 9 to September 13 when roadblocks closed all but one lane on the bridge, the New York Daily News reports.

The suit also accuses Gov. Christie's administration and the state of depriving drivers of their rights to due process and freedom of movement.

Constitutional Right to Get to Manhattan?

By claiming that the lane closures deprived inconvenienced motorists of their constitutional rights, the suit is making a claim under the 14th Amendment.

Since the birth of our nation, the federal courts have recognized the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to travel between states, and have restricted state governments from inhibiting that right. This right is enforced against state governments through the 14th Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause, which prevents any state from "abridg[ing] the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

Following reports that Gov. Christie's top aides were responsible for the bridge closure, the lawsuit claims the State of New Jersey and its officials deprived its members of not only time and money, but also the freedom to move between New Jersey and New York.

Still, as the actual money attached to these constitutional violations may be so nominal, this suit might well end up as a bridge to nowhere.

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