TRENTON, N.J. - Republican Gov. Chris Christie's personal email must be searched -- or he must prove that it already has been -- to comply with the state's public records law, a judge has ruled.
The Record reports that Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson issued the ruling Friday in response to a request filed last year by North Jersey Media Group, the newspaper's publisher.
The request sought records related to a range of subjects, including the George Washington Bridge scandal. Among the records requested, the newspaper asked for email correspondence between the governor and his aides dealing with a 2013 meeting with Democratic Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Two former Christie allies go on trial this month on federal charges that they conspired to create traffic jams at the bridge to punish Fulop for not endorsing Christie's re-election in 2013. Christie wasn't charged in the lane-closing scandal and has denied knowing anything about it.
The judge said in her ruling that the newspaper was entitled to the personal emails because the bridge scandal made it clear Christie had used his personal email account for business. She also ordered the search of personal emails of administration employees to the extent that it's possible.
Christie's office declined comment on the ruling.
The governor's office provided 90 pages of documents in response to the newspaper's request, but 56 of those pages were heavily redacted. The office also did not search Christie's personal accounts in responding to the request, even though he and other state employees frequently used personal email to conduct government business, as investigators found in the fallout of the bridge lane closures.
During court arguments, Christie's office contended that one email, about a meeting between a former Port Authority executive and Fulop, was not subject to the open-records law because it concerned his re-election campaign. It also argued that the reporter who filed the request was playing a "game of gotcha" in seeking records that "were all at play or at least discussed" in the federal criminal case on the 2013 bridge lane closures.
Samuel Samaro, a lawyer for the newspaper, said there were problems with the office's initial search since Christie regularly used personal email and it appeared he had used it for official business, which would make it subject to the records law. He also noted criticism that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has received over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.