John J. Gibbons, former Chief Judge of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has committed his five-decade career to protecting the rule of law in this country, a commitment that had him defending the 660 men incarcerated at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. At Gibbons, he provides valuable trial assistance on cases. He is a member of the National Panel of Distinguished Neutrals of the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution and has served as an arbitrator and a mediator in a number of large commercial disputes among major corporations. He has also engaged in litigation involving antitrust, intellectual property law and securities regulation.

A nationally recognized attorney, Judge Gibbons is listed among the nation's leading business lawyers in the Chambers USA Guide to America's Leading Business Lawyers where he has been ranked number one among the state's commercial litigators, and in The Best Lawyers in America, where he has been ranked in the category of First Amendment Law. In 2005, he received the Lifetime Achievement award from The American Lawyer for his outstanding private practice and his dedication and contribution to the public good. He has served on the Editorial Board of The National Law Journal, and was named the 2004 Lawyer of the Year by the New Jersey Law Journal for his dedication to pro bono causes.

Judge Gibbons founded the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest & Constitutional Law. This unique program goes beyond typical pro bono work, with two attorneys on staff at the firm who undertake public interest and constitutional law projects and litigation for a variety of cases, representing public interest organizations, government agencies, private non-profit corporations, courts and individuals. Under Judge Gibbons' direction, the Fellowship has been involved in many of the most significant and controversial issues that confront the Federal and State courts today. This representation includes challenging the constitutionality of Megan's Law; opposing the Attorney General's decision to close deportation proceedings to the public for detainees arrested in the wake of 9/11; challenging racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike; serving as an advocate for inner city students in the landmark Abbott v. Burke school finance litigation; and defending battered and low-income women in cases concerning domestic violence, criminal prosecution for injuries to their unborn fetuses, and denial of welfare to children in families already receiving welfare. The Fellowship has litigated cases resulting in more than 125 reported decisions, including several in the United States Supreme Court in cases that Judge Gibbons argued personally.

Judge Gibbons and the Gibbons Fellowship attorneys have been at the forefront of challenges to executive power, which has included challenging the legality of the death penalty in New Jersey and nationwide. This work eventually led to the firm's successful legislative effort to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey, the first state to do so since the United States Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Judge Gibbons has also shared his commitment to the rule of law with students of Constitutional Law and other subjects at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he held the Richard J. Hughes Chair in Constitutional Law until June of 1997. He has also taught at Rutgers University Law School, Duke University Law School, and Suffolk University Law School and has authored numerous Law Review articles.


  • Harvard Law School (LL.B., cum laude)
    • Member, Harvard Law Review, 1949-1950
  • College of the Holy Cross (B.S.)

Professional Activities

New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners
Member, 1960-1964
Chairman, 1963-1964

Governors Select Committee on Civil Disorders, 1967-1968

New Jersey Council Against Crime, 1968-1970

Council of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, 1968-1970

American Bar Foundation

Essex County Bar Association

New Jersey State Bar Association
President, 1967-1968

American Bar Association

Military Experience

Active Duty, United States Navy, (1943-1946) Lt. Jg.

Professional Admissions

  • State of New Jersey
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • Supreme Court of the United States

Legal Employment

Crummy, Gibbons & O'Neill, 1950-1970

Judge, United States Court of Appeals, 1970-1990

Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 1987-1990

Publications & Features


AV® Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell

Selected to the New Jersey Super Lawyers list, Appellate

Listed in Chambers USA Guide to America's Leading Lawyers for Business, Litigation: General Commercial

Listed in Best Lawyers®, Arbitration; Mediation; Litigation - First Amendment

Listed as a "State Litigation Star," Business & Commercial Litigation, by Benchmark Litigation, 2015

Douglas S. Eakeley Award, presented by Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, 2012

Recipient, Thurgood Marshall College Fund Award of Excellence, 2008

Named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America, The National Law Journal, 2006

Lifetime Achievers, 2005 Award, The American Lawyers, May 2005

Named 2004 Lawyer of the Year, New Jersey Law Journal, December 27, 2004

Chosen to Serve on the Editorial Board of The National Law Journal, November 2004

Stanley C. Van Ness Leadership Award for Public Interest Advocacy from the Public Interest Law Center of New Jersey, April 2001 

Essex County Bar Association Lifetime Achievement Award, April 2001

Seton Hall University Law School Thurgood Marshall Award, 1997

American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Roger N. Baldwin Civil Liberties Award, 1996

New Jersey State Bar Foundation Medal of Honor, 1995

Recipient, William J. Brennan, Jr. Award, Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey, 1990

Debevoise-Eakeley Award, 1990

No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. A description of the selection process methodology for the awards referenced is available at gibbonslaw.com/awards/.