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Gibney takes oath for federal judgeship

John A. Gibney Jr. has been sworn in as a U.S. District Court judge by Senior Virginia Supreme Court Justice Harry L. Carrico, for whom Gibney clerked in 1976.

Also present in the large seventh floor courtroom in the federal courthouse on May 6 in Richmond was former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, for whom Gibney worked as an assistant attorney general before entering private practice. “[Baliles] taught me you could never be too prepared,” Gibney said.

A baseball fan, Gibney recalled that “Lou Gehrig said he was the luckiest man in the world, and I think I’ve replaced him.”

Few in the overflow audience knew just how lucky. He had gone to the hospital with chest pains three days before the ceremony and underwent heart catheterization the next day to clear a coronary artery that was 95 percent blocked. He also had a stent inserted in the artery.

Gibney showed no ill effects from the procedure, speaking with a strong voice when his three colleagues in the Richmond division — James R. Spencer, Robert E. Payne and Henry E. Hudson — welcomed him to join them on the bench after Carrico swore him in. Gibney mingled with guests before the ceremony and at a reception at the Library of Virginia afterward with no apparent discomfort.

Payne and Spencer complained about the length of time it took to select Gibney and to have him confirmed by the Senate. Payne said he announced that he was taking senior status in May 2007 with the expectation that there would be a prompt replacement.

And Spencer said, “We were drowning in a sea of cases” before Gibney finally was confirmed in December. He had been sitting for several weeks before the formal investiture.

Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner did not recommend Gibney to President Obama until September 2009, and Obama nominated him in April 2010, but the appointment languished another eight months despite the absence of any apparent opposition.

— Alan Cooper

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