Politics

01.16.14

Better Call Rosemarie! Meet the Lawyer Suing Christie Over Bridgegate

Rosemary Arnold says her clients—including a doggy-daycare owner—suffered when their town was jammed with traffic.

In Fort Lee, New Jersey, perched high above the Hudson River, is a white, slightly weatherworn building. It houses the law offices of Rosemarie Arnold, advertised in bold white lettering above the doorway. At the entrance of the office driveway, a sign informs you that you are at “The Personal Injury Center.” The.

Six days ago, a group of six New Jersey residents filed a lawsuit in federal court in response to revelations that suggested at least one official in Governor Chris Christie’s administration closed lanes of the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat. Rosemarie Arnold is the civil trial attorney who is representing those (now ten) residents. They are suing Christie, the Port Authority, ex-PA officials David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly.

Arnold’s website advertises her practice areas: car accidents, dog bites, workplace injuries, burn injuries, workplace discrimination, dangerous and defective products, truck accidents, construction accidents, fall-down injuries, spinal-cord injuries, and wrongful death. When we emailed, she responded to me from her iPad. Her sign off included a series of emojis: three ambulances, five bags of money, four shamrocks, and a rose.

Inside her office waiting room, which smells overwhelmingly of Italian food, a downtrodden client sits on a shiny, brown leather chair. He taps his foot and rests his head on the wall behind him, which is overflowing with thumb-tacked thank-you cards. The rest of the walls are decorated with framed press clippings, highlighting Arnold’s many high profile legal battles.

On the cover of US Weekly, with the headline “My World Was Shattered,” is an article about supermodel Christie Brinkley’s divorce. Arnold represented the young girl with whom Brinkley’s ex allegedly had an affair. The entire wall is devoted to this one case, with three other full-page clippings from the New York Post.

As I read the walls, Arnold, who sports a deep tan and dark brown hair, wizzed by, dressed down in jeans, a white tank top and a pink flannel shirt,  “I’m running late, be with you in a minute!” Arnold barely looks 25, which is about how long she has owned her practice.

Cars were coming like within millimeters of each other.

In front of a very large box of Advil, she began by explaining the terror that was the gridlock on the bridge. “People were screaming at each other, and cars were coming like within millimeters of each other, like trying to cut each other off and be first! It was stressful; it was anxiety producing; and it made everybody late!”

Arnold told me one of her clients was late to work and fired. She said she knew of a “newspaper delivery company that delivers The Times” who was affected, and has a client who owns a doggy daycare “right at the foot of the bridge” that couldn’t have pooches picked up or dropped off.

Arnold said her ten plaintiffs are just the ones they named, and she “expects the class to consist of over 100,000 people.” Arnold adds, “each persons’ damages need to be calculated, but I can’t imagine this case is worth less than tens of millions of dollars.”

The smoking gun text by Bridget Ann Kelly (“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”) is what Arnold says will win her case for her. The rest of the documents, she told me, weren’t even that important. And Arnold, a former supporter of Christie, said his gross misjudgment and mismanagement in Bridgegate has turned her. “The governor to me is a clear-cut defendant in this case. He is the captain of the ship, and he has publicly stated that this was his fault and his administration failed. He actually publicly stated that they acted, and these are important words, with ‘callous indifference,’ that’s purposeful conduct, that’s not negligence, okay? And the governor has proven to be a bully who takes steps to retaliate against those who don’t support him, so of course suing him puts people in a position where they might be subject to his wrath. I don’t fear that.”

Given Arnold’s familiarity with tabloids and television shows like Inside Edition, where she once appeared, I offer a comparison to Gloria Alred.

Arnold gives me a look.

“This is a serious law firm.”

Video screenshot

What does the world think of Chris Christie and Bridgegate?