Guest blogged by John Atlas
Will Chris Christie, New Jersey's tough Republican Governor and rising GOP star, be the next president of the United States? That prospect is much less likely if the accusations of Yvonne Smith Segars, the head of New Jersey's Office of the Public Defender, turn out to be accurate.
In a scathing letter [PDF] sent to the Governor on Monday, she charged Christie with having "violated New Jersey law as well as the State and Federal Constitutions," in his efforts to remove her from her post, and by interfering with the operation of her office. In the letter, Segars threatened to sue him for eroding the constitutional rights of indigent clients. She says he's actively undermining the work of the state's public defenders by "obstructing...management decisions and by impeding the filling of constitutionally mandated positions."
Segars accused Christie of "bullying tactics" in an effort to remove her from office. The tactics, according to NJ's chief Public Defender, included "veiled threats", "pressure to resign", "interference with [the] agency's operations" by thwarting approved promotions, and ordering her press officer to report to the Governor, instead of to her.
Segars adds that she "now fear[s] being physically removed from my office."
If the accusations are true, this and other unpopular actions could well serve to help unravel future political ambitions for Christie, who is regarded as a rising star among the "Tea Party" and right-wing base of the Republican party.
In a blistering email statement, Segars' attorney charged Christie is "tamper[ing] with the independence of the judiciary and now with the independence of the Public Defender" in what amounts to an "illegal and unconstitutional" "power grab" meriting impeachment by the state legislature...