Law & Justice

Legendary New Jersey Jurist from Short Hills Honored

Theodore Wells, Jr., Lawrence Robbins, Judge Gibbons, and Brad D. Brian. All three men served as clerks for Judge Gibbons. Credits: EJUSA
Larry Lustberg of the Gibbons Law Firm and Judge Gibbons Credits: EJUSA

NEWARK, NJ - The Honorable John J. Gibbons, long time Short Hills resident and standard-bearer of the Gibbons Law Firm and a giant in the New Jersey legal community for five decades, was honored by the Equal Justice USA (EJUSA). A reception on June 21 marked the launch of the Judge John J. Gibbons Fund for Justice at Equal Justice USA. The fund will carry on his commitment to the rule of law and his belief that every person deserves respect and dignity.
“Judge Gibbons was a prominent leader in the historic effort that made New Jersey the first state to repeal the death penalty in more than 40 years,” said Shari Silberstein, Executive Director of EJUSA. “This year marks the 10th anniversary of New Jersey’s repeal of the death penalty. The Gibbons Fund at EJUSA will enable our organization to continue what we started in New Jersey, ending the death penalty across the country.”
Judge Gibbons, the former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, served on the executive committee for New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP), which led the repeal effort locally, in partnership with EJUSA. 
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“The judge and his firm gave NJADP countless hours of pro bono research and representation,” said Celeste Fitzgerald, the former Director of NJADP and now the Director of Partnerships for EJUSA. 
Claire Whipple Koshland, granddaughter of the 92-year old Judge Gibbons, has been working with EJUSA to launch the Fund. 
“To my cousins and me, John Gibbons is just ‘Grandpa,’” said Koshland. “In his own humble way, our grandfather set the standard for our family. His words and actions reflect his intellect, compassion, and core values, among them that everyone is deserving of respect and dignity. That is a legacy we want to continue with the Judge John J. Gibbons Fund for Justice at EJUSA.”
“The Gibbons Fund at EJUSA is a fitting tribute for one of the most influential legal minds of the past half century,” said Ted Wells of Livingston, New Jersey, one of America’s top criminal defense attorneys and a former law clerk for Judge Gibbons. “Judge Gibbons’ leadership and scholarship are second to none, dedicating his life to the rule of law, while mentoring and being of service to others. I’m pleased to make a leadership gift to the Fund and encourage others to do so, so that EJUSA can carry on the Judge’s legacy and see death penalty repeal through to the end.”
Appointed to the appellate court by President Richard Nixon in 1969, Judge Gibbons is a past president of the New Jersey State Bar Association. He is also a former member of the Governor’s Commission on Civil Disorders, a past trustee of the Fund for New Jersey, and a professor at Seton Hall Law School for more than 45 years, holding the Richard J. Hughes Chair in Constitutional Law until June of 1997
Highlights of Gibbons’ post-judicial career after retiring from the bench in 1990 include defending prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in the landmark 2004 Supreme Court case Rasul vs. Bush. In 2006 Gibbon co-chaired the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, which called for an end to over-incarceration and for more humane conditions. He also founded the renowned John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest & Constitutional Law at Gibbons. 

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