Gov. Phil Murphy tapped prominent litigator Ted Wells to handle the defense of a lawsuit filed by George Norcross and several businesses over the state’s investigation of the Economic Development Authority.
“I look forward to representing the Governor in this matter, to vindicating the right of the Governor to establish the Task Force, and to demonstrating that the Task Force has acted appropriately in conducting its highly important investigation,” Wells said in a statement.
Wells, a partner at New York’s Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP has handled a number of high-profile criminal cases and investigations. His clients have included public officials such as New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, U.S. Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
The 69-year-old lawyer was also a partner at Roselands’s Lowenstein Sandler. In fact, Wells made his name in New Jersey by successfully defending former Hudson County Prosecutor Harold Ruvoldt against federal extortion charges. The result in the 1983 case was regarded as a surprise. Then-U.S. Attorney W. Hunt Dumont personally handled some of the trial work.
In 2015, Wells led an investigation for the National Football League into allegations that the New England Patriots used improperly inflated footballs in the AFC Championship game to gain an advantage for quarterback Tom Brady. In a 243-page report, Wells concluded that ” it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.” The findings in the so-called Deflategate scandal, resulted in Brady being suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season.
The Norcross suit, filed on May 22 in Mercer County Superior Court, alleges that the task force Murphy appointed to scrutinize tax incentives doled out by EDA lacks the authority to conduct the investigation.
“Given the importance of the Task Force and the fact that the lawsuit is a clear attempt to shut it down, we thought it important to hire one of the nation’s best litigators to defend the Governor and the Task Force, and to ensure the investigation continues unhindered,” said Matt Platkin, Murphy’s chief counsel, in a statement.
The plaintiffs have also assembled a blue-chip legal team, including longtime litigator Michael Critchley, of Roseland’s Critchley, Kinum & DeNoia; former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who is now senior of counsel at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C.; and former New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino, now a partner and chair of the Litigation Department at Lowenstein Sandler.