By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday is set to consider whether to make public a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the "Bridgegate" criminal prosecution involving allies of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
One of the people on the list, whose name has been kept out of court filings, has asked the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the information's release.
The emergency request came days after a federal judge in New Jersey granted a motion from a consortium of media companies to reveal the names.
The list could shed light on how many Christie associates were aware of an alleged scheme to shut down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in 2013 in what prosecutors claim was an act of political revenge against a local mayor.
Christie, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination this year, has denied any knowledge of the plot, but the scandal has remained a source of embarrassment for the governor.
The list includes individuals that prosecutors believe were aware of the conspiracy but who have not been criminally charged.
The anonymous person on the list has argued in court papers that his reputation will be irreparably harmed by its release and that the public has no right to the information.
"The district court's opinion is irreconcilable with decades of case law holding that the Government violates an individual's right to due process when it publicly brands him a criminal without any compelling governmental justification for doing so," his lawyer wrote in an appellate brief.
The media companies have responded by accusing the person of waiting too long to assert privacy rights and by citing freedom of the press.
"This case presents an extraordinarily important issue of public concern and a need for maximum transparency regarding First Amendment and common law access to judicial records," the companies wrote.
Thus far, three people have been charged. William Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, are scheduled to face trial in September.
David Wildstein, also a former official at the Port Authority, the agency that oversees major transportation facilities in the New York City area, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating.
Prosecutors have turned the list over to defense lawyers in the case as part of pretrial proceedings.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)