John J. Gibbons, the standard-bearer of the venerable Newark-based law firm Gibbons PC, died Sunday, according to an obituary on its website. He was 94.John J. Gibbons, the standard-bearer of the venerable Newark-based law firm Gibbons PC, died Sunday, according to an obituary on its website. He was 94.
Gibbons, the former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, had an illustrious six-decade career dating back to the 1960s when, as president of the New Jersey State Bar Association, he enlisted attorneys to help those unable to afford legal representation during the Newark riots.
Some 40 years later he would argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in support of civil liberties and government transparency in the war on terrorism.
Born in Newark, Gibbons grew up in Belleville. He served in the U.S. 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 1970 he was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the U.S. 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.
In April 1990, 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 PC in 2007.
In 1990 the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at Gibbons was founded 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 various causes.
Throughout his career, 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.
Gibbons received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Lawyer in 2005; was named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by The National Law Journal in 2006; and was honored as the Lawyer of the Year by the New Jersey Law Journal in 2004.
He also 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.