Christie Reshuffles His Top Legal Staff

Matt Katz | October 6, 2015 | Katz on Christie

Governor Christie has replaced the top two lawyers in the governor’s office with an expert on electronic data collection and a nationally renowned authority on political corruption. 

Thomas Scrivo, Christie’s new chief counsel, last year was appointed as vice chairman of the state Supreme Court committee on ethical issues involving metadata. Metadata is the digital information that can shed light on deleted documents.

The metadata of deleted Bridgegate documents is now a central issue before the federal judge presiding over the Bridgegate trial. Lawyers for two former Christie appointees indicted in the scandal are seeking metadata from notes taken by Christie’s lawyers when they conducted interviews with the governor and dozens of others after the scandal broke in 2014. The governor’s Bridgegate attorney, Randy Mastro, is fighting that request.

Scrivo has also lectured in New Jersey on crisis management and taught a webcast for attorneys on “how to protect against the disclosure of metadata during the litigation process.”

Under the “two chiefs” structure that Christie set up in the governor’s office, his chief counsel serves on equal footing with the chief of staff, who is Regina Egea. They are the governor’s top two advisers in government. 

Also recently appointed was Scott Coffina as senior deputy chief counsel. He is a former White House lawyer in the George W. Bush administration with experience in legislative oversight, ethics and election law who is regularly quoted in the press for his expertise in high-stakes prosecutions of politicians. Last year he testified before a congressional committee on the use of government offices for campaign fundraising.

Christie’s own office has drawn scrutiny for employees campaigning using work resources. Coffina is an expert on the Hatch Act, the federal law that governs such activities, and has been interviewed about the legal issues behind the indictments of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

In January 2014 Coffina penned a legal analysis of Bridgegate for The Legal Intelligencer. He wrote: “Christie’s bold response to the blown-up scandal likely will be his political salvation — as long as he was truthful.”

Coffina is also a former assistant US Attorney. Christie has long surrounded himself with former federal prosecutors, particularly those who handed political corruption cases. Two of the governor’s first three chief counsels worked for Christie when he was US Attorney for New Jersey prosecuting corruption. 

These two most recent appointments have gotten little attention. The governor’s office did not make an announcement about Coffina’s hiring, as it had for Coffina’s predecessor, Paul Matey, another former assistant US Attorney. Matey is now senior vice president and general counsel of University Hospital in Newark. 

Scrivo replaced Chris Porrino, who is now an attorney in private practice.

The new hires’ expertise in metadata and political corruption investigations is not listed on their biographies on the governor’s web site.  

Spokespeople for the governor did not answer questions about the hirings of Scrivo and Coffina, nor did they provide their public salaries.