Gibbons P.C., the Newark law firm whose attorneys are known to have made donations of $24,000 to Christie’s political campaigns since 2009, has been selected to represent the Christie administration for defending against charges brought by former Hunterdon County prosecutor Bennet Barlyn. Barlyn has alleged that the Christie administration had quashed indictments to protect high-profile supporters of the governor.
Last week, USA Today reported that Christie has strong ties with the law firm and one of his closest advisers, William J. Palatucci is a special counsel in the corporate practice group in the law firm. Palatucci was co-chairman of Christie’s inaugural committee in both 2010 and 2014.
On Thursday, Leland Moore, a spokesman for state Attorney General John Hoffman said that Gibbon will be billing at the rate up to $325 per hour, which is much higher than the normal $200 per hour received in state bids for legal work. According to the law firm, the rates it has offered are already discounted rates.
Moore said, “Following the conclusion of several procedural disputes in the state’s favor, Mr. Barly’s case is entering the discovery phase … The Division of Law has engaged outside counsel to assist with discovery and other litigation tasks.”
On part of Gibbons, Peter Torciollo took charge of the Barlyn case, as reported by the New Jersey Law Journal, and he replaced Jane Greenfogel, a deputy attorney general, and other lawyers who had been representing the state and other defendants in the matter.
This is not the first time when the Christie administration hired an external law firm over government lawyers to represent its interests. In the George Washington Bridge scandal, Gibson Dunn had billed the state $1.1 million only in the first three weeks f work, and the final bills are expected to reach almost $3 million. This occurred even after Gibson Dunn lowered its hourly fee from $650 to $350 and agreed not to bill for travel and other expenses.
In the present matter, Moore, the spokesman for Attorney General Hoffman said the agreement by Gibbons to charge only $325 per hour for partners, $225 per hour for associates and $90 per hour for non-lawyer staff was a “substantial discount from the firm’s typical charges.”