by Joel B. Pollak 9 Jan 2014, 11:22 AM PDT
Noted defense attorney, legal scholar and liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz has concluded that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "may well be liable for the damage caused by the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge" under "existing criminal and civil law." Christie insisted at a press conference today that he did not know about the political motivation for the closures, as ordered by senior members of his administration.
Writing for Newsmax, Dershowitz explained: "Under legal theories of causation, a person who sets in motion a chain of events that result in harm may be responsible for causing that harm, even if he or she did not intend to do so." The question would depend on two factors: first, whether the lane closures caused foreseeable harm, and second, whether Christie himself was directly involved in ordering the closures or failing to prevent them.
Dershowitz noted the real harm that had resulted in the ensuing traffic jam: "In one instance, an old woman apparently died after EMTs had difficulty reaching her. She may have died anyway, but perhaps if the EMTs got to her in time, they could have saved her life. We know for sure that children were late to school as a direct result of the lane closings. This too is a harm, though not one that necessarily has criminal implications."
If Christie chose not to know about the decision, that would not spare him liability, Dershowitz notes: "The criminal law calls this 'willful blindness.' If it can be proved that Christie willfully kept himself from knowing what was going on in order to give himself deniability, that would be the functional equivalent of 'knowing.' There would be no executive immunity, and Christie could face a New York court instead of a New Jersey one.