Gibbons Mourns the Loss of Standard-Bearer John J. Gibbons


December 9, 2018

John J. Gibbons
(1924 – 2018)

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It is with great sadness that Gibbons P.C. announces the passing of John J. Gibbons, the firm’s Standard-Bearer, on December 9, 2018.

Judge Gibbons, the former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, committed his six-decade career to protecting the rule of law in the United States. His commitment dates back to the 1960s – when, as the President of the New Jersey State Bar Association, he enlisted attorneys to help those unable to afford legal representation during the Newark Riots – and continued into the new century, culminating in his argument in front of the United States Supreme Court in support of civil liberties and government transparency in the war on terrorism.

Born in Newark, John Gibbons grew up in Belleville. He served in the United States Navy from 1943-1946, during which time he was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1950, he joined Crummy & Considine (today Gibbons P.C.) as an associate. In January of 1970, he was appointed by Richard Nixon to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where he served for 20 years, the last three of which as Chief Judge. During this time he authored more than 800 opinions.

When he left the bench he became a full-time academic as a Richard J. Hughes Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he shared his commitment to the rule of law with students of Constitutional Law and other subjects. In April of 1990, Judge Gibbons rejoined the firm, which at that time was named Crummy, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, and would become known as Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione in 1997, and then Gibbons P.C. in 2007.

In 2004, Judge Gibbons joined with two other former federal judges from New Jersey to file United States Supreme Court briefs opposing the detention, without judicial review, of the 660 men incarcerated at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Judge Gibbons argued the case and, in a historic decision, the Court decided Rasul v. Bush in favor of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. Immediately after this decision, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Gibbons P.C. recruited additional counsel to file new habeas petitions on behalf of over 70 detainees.

This was just one of the many cases handled by the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at Gibbons, which Judge Gibbons and Gibbons P.C. founded in 1990 as a forum that dedicates two full-time attorneys to undertake public interest and constitutional law projects and litigation on a pro bono basis for a variety of causes. Under his direction, the Fellowship has been involved in the most significant and controversial issues that confront the federal and state courts today. This representation has included pursuing marriage equality rights for New Jersey’s LGBT population; 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.

Throughout his career, Judge Gibbons also focused his efforts on ending capital punishment. As a member of the executive committee of New Jerseyans for an Alternative to the Death Penalty, he participated in groundbreaking cases and was a leading force in the abolishment of the death penalty in New Jersey in 2007. In 2000, Gibbons argued Williams v. Taylor, the first Supreme Court death penalty case that awarded relief on a habeas corpus petition based on the ineffective assistance of counsel.

A nationally recognized attorney, Judge Gibbons has received the Lifetime Achievement Award by The American Lawyer (2005), was named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by The National Law Journal (2006), and was honored as the Lawyer of the Year by the New Jersey Law Journal (2004).

He has also been listed for many years among the Woodward/White Best Lawyers in America, Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers and the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Law Firms in the areas of Alternative Dispute Resolution, First Amendment Law, Appellate, and General Commercial Litigation. Super Lawyers has ranked him among the top 100 attorneys in New Jersey.

“John Gibbons is one of the most highly acclaimed and eminent attorneys in the field….According to peers, ‘he always will be a dean of the New Jersey Bar.’” – Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers, 2008 edition.

Judge Gibbons was a Past President of the New Jersey State Bar Association; Life Member of the American Law Institute; and Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. At various times throughout his career, he was a member of the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association and a Chair of its Committee on Fair Trial and Free Press; Director of the American Arbitration Association; a Trustee and Trustee Emeritus of the Practicing Law Institute and Holy Cross College; and a Trustee of The Fund for New Jersey.

He earned his LL.B. cum laude from Harvard Law School and was a member of the Harvard Law Review. He also graduated from the College of the Holy Cross (B.S., 1947). He was admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, United States Supreme Court, and State of New Jersey.