senior status

Judge Who Axed J&J Bankruptcy Move Handed Biden a Vacancy

When Tom Ambro got a call from a friend in 1990 who mentioned “eleven-ten,” he thought it was a reference to the time rather than the section of the bankruptcy code that covers airplanes.

Ambro, then a transactional lawyer at Richards Layton & Finger in Wilmington, Del. agreed to represent aircraft financiers in Continental Airlines’ second bankruptcy.

That case, which he later argued before the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, altered the trajectory of Ambro’s career, pivoting his focus to bankruptcy. He ultimately returned to the Third Circuit as a judge, where he is perhaps the foremost authority on bankruptcy law sitting on any federal appeals court.

“He’s probably forgotten more bankruptcy than many circuit judges will hope to learn,” said Bruce Markell, a former bankruptcy judge who now teaches at Northwestern University.

Ambro, 73, is still making a mark even after recently taking senior status, penning the decision that struck down a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary’s bankruptcy earlier this year.

He may not have semi-retired at all if not for the election of fellow Delawarean Joe Biden, who had shepherded Ambro’s nomination through the Senate 20 years ago. By taking senior status, Ambro handed his

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